Tuesday, September 13, 2011

John Long's Deep Rooted Blues

Somehow it took John Long decades or so before this old schooled country blues musician made it to a recorded album. Long, a St. Louis native has earned the praise of the late Muddy Waters and John Hammond. Mentored by the likes of Big Joe Williams and harmonica player Doc Terry (later Homesick James became a surrogate blues father), he developed his music and appeared on odd, rare compilations as well as making demos, one of which led to Delta Groove issuing a long overdue disc, Lost & Found.

It is comprised of originals that sound like remakes of classic country blues recordings from the pre-World War 11 era. He sounds as if he has channeled Son House, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson and others. As he sings “I’m packing up, leaving on the bus outside” on the opening Hokum Town one hears echoes of House, Johnson and Big Joe in his charged, rhythmically driving performance, while Pressure Cooker (‘Bout to Blow) is a crisply delivered tune with rack harp added on a song which evokes the Key to the Highway melody.

On Hell Cat, Al Blake plays piano as Long handles the guitar and vocal for a performance that evokes the classic guitar-piano duets of Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell or Big Bill Broonzy and Georgia Tom Dorsey. Blues and Boogie Woogie is another wonderful performance with crisp slide playing as he tells folks to cut the rug and have a real good time with a nice falsetto yodel in the manner of Tommy Johnson. Another performance with a delta feel is Foot Stompin’ Daddy anchored with an emphatically played boogie bass line and downhome rack harp. Al Blake joins Long again on Stranglevine, another medley that alludes to Key to the Highway with more harp from Long and solid piano break from Blake, on a lyric about dealing with vines that are ruining his garden. It is followed by a rocking guitar-harp instrumental, Johnny’s Jump.

I could continue track-by-track, but what is important is that all of the performances are delivered with skill and authority and Long comes off as a real contemporary master of acoustic blues. After listening to the solo and piano-guitar renditions of Leavin’ St. Louis, which close this superb disc, one is left wanting far more.

This review originally appeared in the May 2006 DC Blues Calendar, newsletter of the DC Blues Society. I likely received a review copy from the record label or a publicist.

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