Friday, July 16, 2010

Moeller's Raunchy Blend of Blues and Funk Guitar Sizzles

Johnny Moeller may be best known as guitarist with The Fabulous Thunderbirds, but this Dallas Texas area native has been turning heads with his raw, soul-funk blues guitar playing that comes across as a wild blend of Freddie King, Jimmy Nolan, John Lee Hooker and Frankie Lee Sims. Having an eclectic taste (the title of one of his early recordings was a homage to an Ohio Players recording “Funky Worm), he has shown this on his prior recordings. Now Severn Records has issued his latest recording as a leader album, BlooGaLoo. Severn has used his guitar playing on many of recent recordings by Darrell Nulisch, Lou pride and Steve Guyger. “BlooGaLoo” was recorded over four years and includes some originals along with covers. The backing band is Matt Farrell’s keyboards, Steve Gomes on bass and Rob Stupka on drums with appearances by Shawn Pittman, Kim Wilson and Lou Ann Barton on vocals (Wilson on harp too), along with horns, background vocals, hollering and percussion.

The opening track opens with a Jimmy Nolan-ish riff before turning into an instrumental that could have been an unreleased Freddie King instrumental with plenty of funky, nasty guitar. Pittman handles the vocal for the funky, “I’m Movin’ On Up,” with a chugging rhythm before Pittman encourages the number one guitar player in the land with some searing playing. Moeller may not be a great singer, but he certainly puts plenty into his vocal on Earl KIng’s “Trick Bag,” with a hyper kinetic rhythm section and imagination use of a tape loop of a baby and taking a hot, brief break. Matt Farrell’s organ is really strong here as well as lends it a greasy flavor. Kim Wilson handles the vocal on the racing shuffle rendition of Jesse Anderson’s “I Got a Feelin’,” with Wilson playing some Sonny Boy Williamson-ish harp and Moeller rocks out on his break. Lou Ann Barton adds her voice behind Moeller on a nice funky duet, “I’m Stuck on you,” and takes the lead on the slow blue ballad “Everybody’s Got to Cry Sometime,’ where Moeller rips off single note runs that creates tension with the emphatic slow-drag rhythm here. “Theme From the One-Armed Swordsman,” is a moody instrumental with plenty of hard chords mixed with single note bursts against a walking tempo. Wilson takes a nice vocal, Wilson telling his woman he is leaving her on the uptempo the shuffle “Well Goodbye Baby,” with another hot solo. “Shufflin’ Along,” is a medium tempo-ed guitar rocker followed by the surprising closing performance, a strong cover of an early John Lee Hooker recording, “Teasin’ Baby,” where he certainly evokes the great, early solo boogies recorded by the late great bluesman six decades ago.

Fans of raunchy blues guitar mixed with heavy doses of funk, and rock’n’roll will certainly find this latest effort by Johnny Moeller much to their taste. He certainly has shown himself as a distinctive, and strong guitarist as a sideman, and this release will certainly enhance that reputation and add to the fact he is a credible vocalist.

This review originally appeared in the June 2010 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 326). Severn Records sent this writer the review copy.

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