Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rockin Johnny Burgin Greetings From Greaseland California

Rockin' Johnny Burgin has impressed as a vocalist, guitarist and harmonica player who has worked with Sam Lay, Pinetop Perkins and Tail Dragger among others along with his own recordings for Delmark. While in the West Coast he stopped by fellow guitarist Kid Andersen's Greaseland Studio for a session with Andersen, harmonica player Aki Kumar, bassist Vance Ehlers and drummer June Core. The result is "Greetings From Greaseland California" (West Tone Records),  a collection of strong blues covering a diversity of Chicago blues styles.

Burgin is an earnest and solid singer who delivers the songs here without histrionics or artifice. Backed by this strong studio band, he plays Chicago blues with a tasteful, yet strong idiomatic approach so his performances  come off as relaxed and not rushed. The album opens with a terrific shuffle "Love Me Like I Want It." One is struck by the tempo anchored by Core's relaxed groove and Burgin's prickly, stinging guitar. The album concludes with a wonderful rendition of a lesser known Jimmy Reed number "Tell the World I Do," with Kumar's Reed styled harp played in the manner of Reed himself backing Burgin's laconic vocal.

In between these two songs are the instrumental "Havana Rocks' with terrific harp at the opening and a tempo change midway leading to strong guitar playing; "She's a Hit" another classic Chicago blues; a cover of a lesser known Robert Lockwood number, "Western Horizon" with Burgin's guitar evoking the the late blues legend; a rendition of Junior Parker's "Telephone Angel" in the manner of Son Seals; a "Tribute to John Wrencher" that conjures up that one-armed harp player; and "Empty Bed Blues," the album's highpoint in which a Josh White song is rendered as if by Earl Hooker.

"Greetings From Greaseland California" is another strong recording by Rockin Johnny Burgin that fans of Chicago blues will savor.

I received my review copy (as a download) from Johnny Burgin himself. Here Johnny does Otis Rush's "Homework."

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