Thursday, January 20, 2011

Robert Lockwood Finds His Blues Groove

Continuing my survey of recordings by Robert Lockwood, Jr., he made one recording to be issued on a major label, with I Got To Find Me A Woman on Verve. which I reviewed in the April 1998 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 230). It had some very special guests, Joe Louis Walker who had Lockwood as a guest on his Great Guitars Verve recording, and B.B. King, who Lockwood mentored and helped when B.B. was starting out. It was a friendship that lasted through Robert’s lifetime. When I met Robert for the first time at his Lawnview Avenue Cleveland home, he had on the mantle of his fireplace a picture of him, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. This disc is still available on CD or as a digital download.

It has been quite awhile since Robert Lockwood, Jr. had a new album, I Got To Find Me A Woman (Verve), and for it to be on a major label makes it more welcome. There are guest appearances by Joe Louis Walker and B.B. King who each appear on two tracks. One surprise is that Gene Schwarz, Robert’s long-time bassist was not on this session, replaced by Richard Smith, along with saxophonist, Maurice Reedus; harmonica player, Wallace Coleman; guitarist Charles ‘D.C.’ Carnes; pianist, Robert ‘Red Top’ Young; and drummer, Jimmy ‘Gator’ Hoare.

While Robert has previously recorded almost all of the songs here, the renditions here sound fresh, whether a solo version of Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues, or the band renditions of Take a Little Walk With Me with Joe Louis Walker taking an incisive solo, or Little Boy Blue, which, like Walkin’ Blues, has some nice slide from Lockwood. Lockwood’s rendition of Roosevelt Sykes’ Feel Like Blowing My Horn is a duet with Walker, who also plays with Lockwood on the rendition of Leroy Carr’s How Long, one of several tracks to sport some fine harp from Coleman.

Robert once kidded this writer during an interview for not remembering that Johnny Temple’s big record was Big Legged Woman, so it is surprising to find the song credited here to Charles Brown, and Johnny & Shuggie Otis. I don’t blame Robert, but rather blame whoever at Verve was responsible for the songwriting credits. Coleman’s harp is particularly outstanding on this selection. The longest track is My Daily Wish, that Lockwood originally recorded with just Otis Spann on piano for the classic Candid album Otis Spann is the Blues. Reedus stretches out on sax, and D.C. Carnes on six-string guitar with Lockwood comping behind both on twelve-string, as well as adding his characteristic fills. King plays on the title track. It sounds like King’s guitar was overdubbed over the vocal and band track. This perhaps explains why the backing sounds a touch tentative. King takes the first two and closing solos, while D.C. Carnes takes a crisp, biting solo for the third break.

Lockwood always has been a straight-forward singer, who eschewed any gimmicks or histrionics in his delivery. The vigor of his singing belies his years, and he is particularly effective with his casual approach on My Daily Wash. His off-the-cuff approach also works well on Paul Gayten’s, For You My Love and Memphis Slim’s Everyday I Have the Blues. Both performances feature jazzy arrangements with bop voicings and sound very different from Lockwood’s earlier recordings of the songs. The freshness of the arrangements in part explains why Lockwood is so effective in performing songs that generally have become stale in far lesser hands. Lockwood takes fine solos on both tracks, which also showcase excellent piano from Young and saxophone from Coleman, and are perhaps the highpoints in a varied and consistently entertaining disc by one of the true legends of the blues.

For FTC regulation purposes, I likely received a review copy from Jazz & Blues Report.

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