Thursday, November 10, 2016

John Long Stand Your Ground

John Long 
Stand Your Ground
Delta Groove Music

It took John Long decades or so before this old school country blues musician recorded a full album, the 2006 Delta Groove release Lost & Found. I wrote a decade ago that it was "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." It reflected his being mentored by Homesick James Williamson among others along with his love for these older blues artists and recordings.

It is appropriate he opens his new album with a small group rendition of Homesick James' "Please Set a Date," taken at a relaxed tempo with the type of restrained slide attack that contrasts with say Hound Dog Taylor. As good as it may be, it is followed by the stunning "Red Hawk," where he channels Johnny Shines and Robert Johnson in a stunning reworking of "Terraplane/Dynafow Blues" melody with his original lyrics. The following "Things Can't Be Down Always," has him adding harmonica for a solid one-man blues band performance while the title track is a peppy slide number with a message as Bill Stuve on bass and Washington Rucker on drums add adept backing, while he evokes Joe Hill Louis on "Welcome Mat," another one-man band performance. 

There seems to be several selections where Long may be reflecting about his own mortality. "No Flowers For Me," is a topical blues where he sings that he has been shaking, and asks folks to remember him, but don't spend money on flowers, but rather find a cure for that Parkinson's Disease. His slide, on the rendition of "I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole," conjures up Mississippi Fred McDowell. There is a reflective feel to his fresh interpretation of Blind Willie McTell's "Climbing High Mountains (Trying To Get Home)," and athevery moving "Precious Lord," with bass and drums backing that has an ambience of some of Sonny Boy Williamson's European recordings.

The closing "Suitcase Stomp" is a brisk, brief one-man band number where Long sings about leaving St. Louis and just doing what he wants, doing the suitcase stomp. Ten years ago I said "Long comes off as a real contemporary master of acoustic blues." It has taken ten years for John Long to follow up that recording, and that evaluation still is appropriate. The wait was definitely worthwhile with this terrific recording.

I received my review copy from Delta Groove. Here is a video of John in performance.

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