Big Jack Johnson
Stripped Down Memphis
Red Raw, Timelessly Emotional Acoustic Country-Blues
I seem to be subconsciously steeped in the Blues at the moment; and as you’d expect no two albums are even remotely the same ….. ‘cos that’s how the Blues is.
This is a new name to me; Big Jack Johnson; but his guests on the two sessions are very nearly ‘household names’ … Kim Wilson and Wild Child Butler, so I had to give it at least one play.
The Wild Child Butler 1998 session has never seen the light of day before; and the Kim Wilson tracks from 2000 are unreleased too; making this album all the more exciting for that snippet of news.
Forget the dates though; this type of red raw and emotional acoustic Blues could have been recorded at any time in over 100 years yet still sounds fresh and dangerously exciting today in 2022.
The ‘live from the floor’ recording starts with Baby What You Want Me To Do and the scene is undoubtedly set; with Johnson reaching into his hearts darkest abyss as he struggles to keep a relationship alive, while his ‘chunka-chunka’ guitar playing accompanies some staggering mouth-harp that wouldn’t be out of place at a funeral.
The mood lightens slightly with the riff-tastic Run Blues Run and Johnson’s gruff world weary vocals sound like he has just gone straight from the plantation and into a recording studio.
Aching All Over starts with Wild Child Butler actually chatting in the studio about ‘having his wings clipped’ then gliding seamlessly into a mournful guitar/harmonica heartbreaker; the likes of which I would normally associate with very early John Lee Hooker.
As you can tell; there aren’t many laughs here nor is this likely to even accidentally turn up inj the Easy Listening section of a record shop; but that’s not the point; is it?
Songs like See Me Coming with Wild Child on vocals and Part Time Love are ‘everyman’ songs, that will squeeze your heartstrings until you can’t hardly breathe; but you will turn to them several times in the future because Johnson just might be singing about you and your feelings.
There is a small amount of ‘light’ to balance the various shades ‘darkness’ here; with a stomping version of The Hucklebuck nearly outdoing The Hully Gully Twist in the way Johnson and friends can change the mood on a sixpence!
While I’m not totally sure of the origin of the story in Going To Norway; the chorus and melody actually had me tapping my toes right from the git go; which I wasn’t expecting; therefore I’m making this my Favourite Song on a rather special album.
Big Jack Johnson is a brand new name to me; and one that has made me research his back story and back catalogue; which shows the effect these songs have had on me.
Released 20th May 2022
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