Drop this CD on the rack and check the release date. From the opening song, you realize that this isn't your regular modern blues album. From the choice of compositions to the arrangements and recording process, "Johnny's Blues Aggregation" isn't afflicted with the pop blues disease and the result is a welcome diversion for blues fans.
The lowdown, thick, guttural tone and hot, biting phraseology of Johnny's guitar work borders other genres at times but the songs are not suffering from the overblown, finger-exercise guitar style that pervades many "blues" CD's in the prevalent blues-rock crossover market. (Although Johnny Moeller is a Texas guitar slinger, don't even think about lumping him in with the SRV wannabe's.) What we end up with is a mix of classic blues atmosphere fired by hard charging, evasive, funky riffs honed with a touch of laid back
swamp blues mixed up with a dirty boogie woogie background here, and a gutturalized shuffle there. Songwriting credits vary from his own instrumentals to compositions by Memphis Slim, Johnny Watson, Maceo Merriweather, Roy Head, Joe Nettles, Jimmy Reed and others.
Highlights of this aggregation include the adroit barrelhouse piano accentuation throughout the various arrangements by Matt Farrell and the vocal harmonies of Homer Henderson* on "Oh Baby Oh," and "You Got Me Crying." The distinctive relative pitch of Homer's harmonies and the accuracy of his phrasing are notable and really add a lot to the enjoyment of the CD. (*The liner notes state that the album was, "cut live...with everybody together in one room," but also lists Homer as handling the vocals on these two songs. Yes, that is him singing his own harmony parts on those two tunes.
Along with Matt Farrell and Homer Henderson, his brother Jason Moeller sits
in on drums, (also songwriting credit and vocal on "J's Scratcher") Mike
Keller and Johnny Bradley share duties on the upright bass, and Shawn
Pittman sings and handles the piano duties on "Thinking."
Included in the mix are two excellent instrumentals, "Bak'N' Forf," and
"Slingin Hash," which highlight the quality of musicians joining Johnny in
the studio. They are able to step into the jam when they are suppose to
without walking all over each other when they are not, a simple yet elusive
The only drawbacks are a vocal mic getting pushed on parts of a few songs
and some of the vocals initially lack the edgy emotion of Johnny's guitar
playing. These are but minor annoyances as the arrangements of the music,
the musicianship, the overall recording techniques, and the quality of the
song selections more than make up for any limitations.
Produced by Johnny Moeller and Chuck Nevitt for DBS Records, "Johnny's Blues
Aggregation" is a highly entertaining CD. The fine group of artists backing
Johnny displays excellent blues musicianship and their camaraderie is
obvious as the fun they had in the studio is captured (and left in) by the
recording and engineering of Billy Horton from "Fort Horton Studios" in
Austin, Texas. All in all, a fine example of the artistry and production of
those involved with the "Dallas Blues Society." It is quite apparent that
the "DBS" knows their blues and is out to deliver it to those who can still
discern the difference. (Check out Henry Qualls, "Blues From Elmo, Texas"
Dallas Blues Society Records, P.O. Box 190406, Dallas, Texas 75219
Web address: www.dallasbluessociety.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Stephen T. Davidson , and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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