Blues Anatomy / Jef Lee Johnson
Rediscovering Lonnie Johnson
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2008, Volume 15, #3
Written by John Metzger
Mon March 24, 2008, 06:45 AM CDT
There was a time when everyone who cared about the blues knew who Lonnie Johnson was. That, however, was before Robert Johnson claimed to be his second cousin and ran off to become a legendary figure. Not to take anything way from what Robert Johnson accomplished ó after all, he earned every bit of his reputation with his magnificent, groundbreaking recordings. Lonnie, however, has not deserved his fate of being relegated to a mere historical footnote. Shepherded to fruition by the Philly-based outfit Blues Anatomy and guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, Rediscovering Lonnie Johnson was designed specifically to refocus part of the attention back onto Lonnie Johnsonís work.
Right from the outset, with the woozy call of horns that greets the gently rolling lilt of St. Louis Blues, Rediscovering Lonnie Johnson establishes a mood that is drawn straight from yesteryear. Moving from the racing, acoustic gem Swing Out Rhythm to the brassy, New Orleans-bred headiness of Iím Not Rough, itís suitably diverse, too, which is, by itself, a reflection upon Johnsonís wide-ranging interests. Jef Lee Johnsonís guitar solos sing beautifully within the setís antiquated arrangements, and for a moment, Rediscovering Lonnie Johnson finds a nearly perfect groove, one that pays homage to a long forgotten figure without succumbing to the drudgery that reverence typically brings. Blues Anatomy clearly is having fun, and its loose, free-spirited joy is what ultimately sells the material.
Geoff Muldaur makes a guest appearance on Rediscovering Lonnie Johnson, lending his voice to a sterling interpretation of Heís a Jelly Roll Baker. From there, however, the momentum of the set begins slowly to slip away. Muldaurís passion and conviction ó heís an extraordinary vocalist ó elevate the intensity of the tune to such a level that he winds up putting the contributions of Blues Anatomyís Eddie Davis into perspective. Although Davis holds his own during the opening half of the collection, the slower, soulful numbers ó Broken Levee Blues, Careless Love, and Tomorrow Night ó prove themselves to be merely adequate. Nevertheless, if Rediscovering Lonnie Johnson gains any traction ó and based upon its first few tracks, it should ó then all of its missteps surely will be forgiven.
Of Further Interest...
Rediscovering Lonnie Johnson is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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