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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Big Head Blues Club

100 Years of Robert Johnson

Review by Larry Toering

Featuring Big Head Todd and The Monsters and special guests B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin, Honeyboy Edwards, Charlie Musselwhite,  Ruthie Foster, Cedric Burnside and Lighnin' Malcolm, one great line up of all stars was put together to celebrate a century of Robert Johnson and it's a spectacular performance by all, naturally. They cover all the best and most well known songs in their own way and stay faithful to the original at the same time. This album is a must. Everyone plays together so well this should be a band that stays together and makes more music. Todd sings in the pocket with magnificence while everyone just soars around him. It’s one of the most interesting modern blues combos ever assembled.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Come Into My Kitchen

This is full of instant mojo. Right away things are so authentic and faithful to the original that it’s absolutely incredible. Everything is in the pocket as the arrangement is fed by such great chemistry. This is a top of the blues performance!  Charlies Musselwhite on hamonica has to be beard to be believed.

Ramblin' On My Mind
Things roll right along on this one, and there is such a genuine quality displayed so far that there is no way to deny it. The vocals sound as if he actually wrote the tune, and that is amazing. This is truly an awe inspiring version. The slide work is remarkable. Cedric Burnside is on this one, along with Lighnin' Malcolm on electric slide guitar as well. This is a truly sublime performance.
When You Got a Good Friend
We get more of the same here on this cut, another simply outstanding version. It’s very playful and serious at the same time. I can't take my ears off it. Big Head Todd and Ruthie Foster share vocals.
Cross Road Blues
This is a much slower and very languid version, complete with chatter. B.B. King and Big Head Todd are featured on vocals here and it works so well. Such a blend of voices is displayed here, simply groovy and tastey. There is some great organ growling from Jeremy Lawton, and it adds a particularly beefy sound before the guitars trade licks. This is a simply awesome version of what is probably Robert Johnson's most well known tune.
Preachin' Blues
This one is a swampy number with Todd singing in a lower register that helps change the mood. It’s another excellent rendition.
Kind Hearted Woman
Things slow down again with a piano opening this, it has another great vocal performance from Big Head Todd and there are points where Ruthie Foster steps in and it’s simply magical.
If I Had Possession over Judgement Day
This one has Lightnin' Malcolm on a boogie woogie guitar.  With a great rhythm section this really kicks.
Last Fair Deal Gone Down
We have another groovey one here with Charlie Musselwhite again providing spot on harp.
All My Love Is Love In Vein
Todd alone plays acoustic guitar and sings, and he puts in another fine performance. He's a great band conductor, but here he gets a spotlight all his own.
Sweet Home Chicago
On the closing track, Honeyboy Edwards plays guitar and sings, and Charlie Musselwhite handles the business again. How sweet it is, one hundred years of absolute respect for the blues of Robert Johnson.

 

 
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