That's All I Need
Washington DC radio personality Steve Hoffman observes that "There are flashier Guitar players around, but no DC area blues band that gets into that soulful blues groove like this trio does." I may not agree that no DC area band does what Johnny & the Headhunters does, but they certainly do indeed hit some soulful grooves here. Formerly Louisiana Red's lead guitarist, Johnny Ticktin's vocals and guitar are supported by Brian McGregor, Steve Shaw, Pete Kanaras and El Toro Gamble on bass; Clark Matthews, El Toro Gamble or Robbie McGruder on drums; and Tam Sullivan on keyboards, with Dru Lore adding guitar to one selection.
Ticktin has put together a nice mix of rarely rerecorded songs that are sung and played with restraint. This is evident on the opening title track, a nicely rendered cover of Magic Sam's title track, sung with grit yet restraint, and then followed by a similarly appealing rendition of "Lead Me On," from the Bobby Bland songbook, again with a similar enticing soulful vocal. I do not believe I have heard many covers of Johnny Adams' recording "Body and Fender Man" (written by Duke Robillard and Doc Pomus). Ticktin again delivers a fine vocal and Sullivan's organ adds to the quality of the performance.
There is some rockabilly feel on "Chicken House," which is followed by a nice shuffle groove on Lowell Fulson's "Rock 'Em Dead." Ticktin opens his treatment of "Shake Your Money Maker" playing slide sounding like J.B. Hutto on speed. His high adrenalin playing will get folks boogieing. It is followed by the reverb-heavy garage band tribute to Link Wray, "Ace of Spades," again displaying his taste and thoughtful playing. "Watch and Chain (Hey Gyp)" is credited to Donovan, but is the same song as "Chevrolet," an old Jim Kweskin Jug Band duet between Geoff and Maria Muldaur. Liz Springer joins this for a delightful vocal duet which is set against a punchy Bo Diddley groove.
After another solid, wonderfully sung and played performance of a Magic Sam song, "All My Whole Life," the album closes with a Latin-tinged tribute to Albert Collins, "Collins Mambo," where Ticktin incorporates some of the Telecaster legend's riffs and tone. This marvelous recording shows that one can play and sing with restraint and still play strong, soulful blues and roots music.
I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a relatively recent performance by Johnny & the Headhunters.