Monday, June 23, 2014


Newbie blues boy from New Orleans, Johnson's debut disc includes some surprising maturity and some heavyweight acknowledgement from guests Alvin Youngblood Hart and Sonny Landreth.  The self-professed guitar slinger also writes seven of eleven cuts here, and shows a surprising palette of influences.  The disc feels like a showcase of his talents, with a bit of everything on display for all to see.

Original Don't Make A Sound kicks things off, and sometimes you have to admit that certain guitar playing is just nasty.  Not only is it technically good, there's a dirty effect on it, lots of guts and it's a moment (well, couple of minutes) where Johnson throws down the gauntlet.  The Hucklebuck is another, six minutes and some of Johnson dueling with the organ on the old dance craze number.  Elsewhere, Johnson moves back and forth through modern blues.  The title cut is is mid-tempo soul blues, while So Glad You're Mine is even smoother.  Don't Take It With You is very tight funk, almost a pre-hit Robert Palmer groove.  Long Way Back To New Orleans is the only nod to his home music, but what a number.  It has a pulsing Second Line rhythm throughout, and Johnson and Landreth duel away on ripping slide solos.

The covers include a matched pair, Dylan's Meet Me In The Morning, and Hooker's Meet Me In The Bottom.  It's one of the best Dylan covers I've heard, going a long way to show how underestimated he is as a pure blues writer of the late 20th century.  The Hooker number, which shares more than just half a title with Dylan's, is rearranged and intense throughout.  Not all of them work though; his version of As The Years Go Passing By is by the book, over long at 13 minutes, and the vitality of the tune drained out by long guitar noodling.  But overall, it's the kind of album that puts a young blues artist on the map, and on the road to a long career.

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