John A. Bigham jammed on guitar and keyboard for the pioneering rock-funk-ska band Fishbone for eight years and toured and recorded with artists as acclaimed and diverse as Miles Davis, Eminem, Dr. Dré, Nikka Costa, Bruce Hornsby and Everlast. Recently he has adopted the persona of The Soul of John Black and has fused blues, soul, funk, hip hop, pop with field hollers, spirituals and work songs resulting in some compelling, music with a steady groove and mesmerizing quality to the performance. On his last album, “The Good Girl Blues” (Yellow Dog), the focus seemed to be on blues material with “The Hole,” being a modernized field holler. His most recent release on the Delta Groove affiliate Eclecto Groove, “Black John,” shifts its focus for a blues to soul-funk foundation for another intriguing effort that opens with the title track, with its bad ass hero in the vein of "Railroad Bill," "Stagolee" and other outlaw heroes followed by “Billie Jean,” an intriguing song about being sweet on “Billie Jean,” who he’s been trying to meet, but she is like a dream. On both his band lays down a funk groove and his soulful vocals engaging in a call and response with the backing vocal as he also lays down some stinging guitar as appropriate. His slide guitar kicks off “Last Forever,” as he tells a story about a Sunday Morning and forgot his prayer as his woman stayed out all night but was like a bad cell phone, you know she liked to roam. The fact he is a terrific singer and guitarist does not hurt. “I Knew a Lady,” conjures up Leadbelly tune before he mixes a lyric about a dancing lady with a chorus that sounds like a rap based on a children’s rhythm about “all the Lord’s children needs to feel good,” whereas, on “White Dress,” he celebrates sexuality and how his woman looks in her white dress and black drawers dancing in the sun. The mood shifts to a bit of country soul on “Better Babe,” and the remainder of this is equally fresh sounding. The Soul of John Black is a breath of fresh air in contemporary vernacular music and with “Black John,” has provided us with yet another stunning release.
This review originally appeared in Jazz & Blues Report and (For FTC regulations purposes) my review copy was probably sent to me by the frecording label)