Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

BIG HEAD BLUES CLUB

100 YEARS OF ROBERT JOHNSON

2011-03-07

Everyone that has listened to the blues has heard it. Almost everything in the blues owes something to it. Every rock and blues guitarist worth his six strings has done it at least once. Clapton did a whole album of it. Rory Block and John Hammond did whole albums of it as well. Big Head Todd and the Monsters do it here. What is “it” you ask? Simple: The music of Robert Johnson. Given that the mere 29 songs Johnson recorded in his all too short life have been performed more times than almost anything in the blues one can be forgiven for approaching this disc by a Colorado rock band with some sense of skepticism. What twists can they possibly add to these tunes that makes them any different than the countless and often tired covers done by those who travelled this road before them? It turns out that by adding legendary bluesmen including Charlie Musselwhite, B.B. King, Honeyboy Edwards and Hubert Sumlin, who have travelled the road before and know where the potholes and detours lie, the band is able to get a few more miles out of these old warhorses of tunes. Avoiding the hard rock slam that Led Zepplin, The Dead, Cream, Canned Heat and others used in their own attempts at reinvention as well as the note for note homage that more often is the approach to Johnson’s work, the crew assembled here takes a middle road. Neither hard rocking nor bare bones acoustic, the tunes are mostly electric but often use Jeremy Lawton’s cool keyboard work in lieu of guitar histrionics to add something new. Highlights include B.B. King cutting loose on "Crossroad Blues", Ruthie Foster laying down some Bessie Smith style vocals on "Kind Hearted Woman", Lightnin’ Malcolm and Cedric Burnside trading guitar and drum beats on "If I Had Possession over Judgment Day" and the mysterious sounding "Last Fair Deal Gone Down". Smitty

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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