Thursday, January 27, 2011

Robert Lockwood's Solo Blues Mastery

My last post examining some of the classic recordings of Robert Lockwood, Jr., involves two solo recordings. Delta Crossroads was reviewed in the September-October 2000 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 247) while The Legend Live was reviewed in the March April issue (Issue 267). It is ironic because Lockwood, when I met him in 1970, was not very interested in performing in a somewhat archaic musical style. Yet for someone not fond of performing solo, he did make fine recordings in this vein. I have made minor editorial changes from the originally published reviews. Both of these recordings are still in print. 

Delta Crossroads 

Robert Lockwood, Jr., remains a national blues treasure who still sounds as fresh and vital today as he did decades ago. Telarc has issued a new cd, Delta Crossroads, which is surprising in that it is a solo acoustic album with Robert rendering fine performances of a number of his stepfather, Robert Johnson’s songs, along with several other blues standards and some of his own originals.

This is not his first album as an acoustic blues performer. He recorded Plays Robert & Robert on a French label which since has been reissued in the US on Evidence. Lockwood has included tracks on prior albums in this vein. Robert has recorded most of these songs in the past, although perhaps under different titles. For example, his This Little Girl of Mine was recorded with his band as Hold Everything on Lockwood’s first Trix album and this writer is familiar with other renditions by him of most of the Robert Johnson songs.

Johnson’s 32-20 Blues that opens this album may be the one song I have not heard him record before, but he recorded Dust My Broom even prior to Elmore James, although it never got issued, and he did Rambling on My Mind on his Steady Rolling Man album for Delmark. Lockwood plays with his usual skill and sings straightforwardly and without any artifice. Its nice to hear renditions of performances of such classics he regularly performs as C.C. Rider and Leroy Carr’s Mean Mistreater and In the Evening. The latter number is juxtaposed with a rendition of Love In Vain, which uses the latter tune’s melody.

This is beautifully recorded and produced by Joe Harley and is a worthy addition to his growing body of recordings. I hope Telarc (or another label) does not keep us waiting too long for a full album of Robert and his great band.

The Legend Live

This brand-new Robert Lockwood, Jr. album on MC Records, The Legend Live, is a solo performance recorded at The Rhythm Room in Phoenix last July. There is little in the way of surprises in the material covered, which ranges from a quartet of Robert Johnson songs (including Sweet Home Chicago, Love in Vain and Rambling on My Mind), and several blues standards including Leroy Carr’s How Long Blues and In the Evening, plus Johnny Temple’s Big Legged Woman.

Lockwood was a sideman when Roosevelt Sykes waxed Feel Like Blowin’ My Horn for Delmark, and he brings a bit of panache to this along with the swing classic Exactly like You. Having played the twelve string nearly thirty years, it is no wonder that he is able to get such a distinctive sound to match his unique, sophisticated playing while his vocals give no indication that he was 88 when he recorded this. This is another excellent addition to his discography.

It’s two bad that the wonderful live Japanese recordings he made with the Aces in the 70’s, along with a superb 90’s Japanese album are currently unavailable in the US, but this will have to suffice for those wanting a document of his marvelous live performances.

Tomorrow, I will post the obituary I wrote of Robert Lockwood Jr., after his passing. I likely received review copies for these from Jazz & Blues Report.

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