Thursday, January 06, 2011

Robert Lockwood Jr Was a Steady Rolling Man

I was a senior at Case Western Reserve University when I first met Robert Lockwood Jr (often referred to as Robert Jr. Lockwood) and interviewed him for the university paper (I wish I still had a copy of that article). Later I did interview him which was run in the Jazz & Blues Report when he passed away in November 2006 at the age of 91.

Robert was one of the most interesting and underrated blues artists who ever lived. He is known as Robert Johnson’s stepson, and was taught many things by Johnson. However he developed a guitar style that reflected considerable jazz influences. He was a member of the King Biscuit radio program and then leading his own band for a competing flour company, Mother’s Best, was one of the first blues electric guitarists to be heard through the Mississippi Delta region, and influenced countless guitarists. This continued in the 1950s when he moved to Chicago and became house guitarist for Chess Records as well as teaching folk like Freddie King techniques. Around 1960, he accompanied Sonny Boy Williamson to Cleveland, Ohio where they played Gleason’s for several months,. Robert liked Cleveland and ended up staying and raising a family there until his death and making a number of albums over the years.

This is the first of a series from reviews of Robert’s recordings over the years that I will be posting here. The following review of “Steady Rolling Man” appeared in November 1992 issue of Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 176).  This CD was recently rereleased by Delmark and should be readily available. 

Robert Jr. Lockwood’s first album as a leader, Steady Rolling Man, has just been made available on compact disc by Delmark. Recorded with the Aces in 1970, shortly after Robert had made a surprise appearance at the 2nd Ann Arbor Blues Festival, this is a solid, straight-ahead session with reworkings of several Robert Johnson tunes (the title track, Ramblin’ on My Mind and Kind-Hearted Woman) several of the songs he recorded for Bluebird (Take a Little Walk with Me and Mean Red Spider), originals in a similar vein (Western Horizon, and Blues and Trouble), and three instrumentals, Steady Groove, Lockwood’s Boogie and Tanya.

All of the performances are marked by the relaxed interplay between Lockwood’s guitar, Louis Myers’ guitar, Dave Myers’ bass and Fred Below’s propulsive drumming. Alternates of
Worst Old Feeling and Lockwood’s Boogie are added to prior releases. The instrumental Steady Groove provides a good description of the contents, as Lockwood and the Aces participated and were responsible for the groove for many classic Chess recordings. These are enjoyable, solid performances, as Robert delivers the vocals in an unadorned style, although they are not as charged as the live Japanese recordings Lockwood and the Aces made that were issued on an Advent album that has unfortunately never been issued on compact disc in the United States. Solid, unpretentious blues.

For purposes of FTC regulations, I likely received this from Delmark Records.

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