Imagine someone who had the kind of upbringing we tend to associate with the blues masters of old; now imagine that that person had absorbed the essence of the musicality and style of the 50s and 60s when the likes of Dixon, Fulson, Hooker and the Kings were at the height of their powers; imagine also that that person would be able to recreate those blues today in a way that sounds like it is still the early 60s and yet is bang up to date. Well, I am delighted to say that such a person actually exists.
Allow me to introduce Johnny Tucker: he was born to a “seasonal sharecropper” (this was an often very poorly paid version of feudalism where the landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crops produced), the tenth of nineteen siblings (although some sources say 16) and was exposed to music by his father playing guitar on the porch. James Brown was also a big influence on him as he listened to Brown’s records and learned them by ear and this shows in his sometimes soulful blues voice. A self-taught musician, he is 72 years young and has been playing the blues for nigh on 60 of them.
The recently released Seven Day Blues is, perhaps surprisingly, only Johnny’s third album following his 1997 Stranded album with James “Broadway” Thomas and 2006’s Why You Lookin’ At Me? On this new one, Johnny writes all fifteen tracks and one glance at the list of musicians will tell you he has, courtesy of label boss Bob Auerbach, assembled a backing band of skill and blues heritage. Each song generates that ‘comfortable slippers’ feeling of recognition even though they are all new and I found myself trying to identify the inspiration…then I gave up and just enjoyed the songs. There are too many to examine each one and so here are my highlights.
Opening track, Talkin’ About You Baby, sets the scene with a kind of jump blues that you would swear has the Wolf howlin’ the words. The band recreates the sounds superbly and the guitar is outstanding. The lovely slow blues number, Why Do you Love Me So Hard, has every blues cliché but it is simply brilliant with the classic sounding guitar and harp and the guitar solo is an understated genius. The title track, Seven Day Blues, injects a bit of funk into the mix and the harp work is just right behind that voice. Straightforward R’n’B crops up in Come On Home With Me. One of my favourite blues guitar players, David ‘Kidd’ Ramos serves up one of his inspired solos on Tell You All with his trademark rockabilly-like approach. Do Right Man has a shuffle base and the guitar and harp are again in harmony; the slide guitar may be economic but it is perfectly judged. The blues ballad isn’t ignored and on One Of These Days the guitar is as expressive as Johnny’s great vocals. Final track, You Can Leave My House, burns with intensity as the slow pace adds to the atmosphere and, again, with a guitar and harp in a symbiotic relationship, topped off with great vocals…what’s not to love?
So this is an album for lovers of the blues that started the genre’s rebirth…the kind of songs that the Stones and the Animals made their own and then took them back over the water. Except here they are new, fresh and familiar and a real delight to listen to. The authenticity of the sound is due to the skills of the various musicians but has benefited from Atkinson’s use of vintage equipment and getting all of the performers in the same room to rehearse and record…no email and reassemble here. Give it a try.
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Talkin ‘About You Baby
- Tired Of Doing Nothing
- Why Do You Let Me Down So Hard
- Love And Appreciation (To Georgia)
- Seven Day Blues
- Come On Home With Me
- Tell You All
- Something I Want To Tell You
- Gonna Give You One More Chance
- I Want to Do It
- Do Right Man
- One Of These Days
- I Can not Wait
- Listen Everybody
- You Can Leave My House
All songs composed by Johnny Tucker
Johnny Tucker – vocals
Big Jon Atkinson – guitar (tracks 1,3,4,6,8,9,10,11,12,13,14), bass (tracks 2,5,15)
Bob Corritore – harmonica (tracks 3,4,6,10,13)
Kid Ramos – guitar (track 7)
Troy Sandow – harmonica (tracks 2,5,8,11,14,15), bass (tracks 1,3,4,6,9,10,11,12,13,14)
Scott Smart – guitar (tracks 1,2,3,4,5,6,9,10,11,12,13,14,15), bass (track 8)
Malachi Johnson – drums (tracks 1,2,5,8,9,11,12,14,15)
Marty Dodson – drums (tracks 3,4,6,7,10,13)
Bob Welch organ (tracks 4,7)
Recorded at Big Tone Studios, California
Produced by Big Jon Atkinson
Released on HighJohn Records