Big Jack Johnson, "The Oilman," hails from the Mississippi Delta country and has made a name for himself as a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter of considerable note in blues circles. In the past few years, Johnson also got a reputation as a tireless cross country entertainer, performing 300 shows a year. Recently, Johnson has eased off of his almost constant touring schedule because of serious back problems. It was during one of Jack's recent "convalescent" periods that producer, Mark Carpentieri, decided to bring Jack into the studio to record an acoustic CD.
With the welcome assistance of Fabulous Thunderbirds and solo harp man, Kim Wilson and a surprise guest appearance by Pinetop Perkins, the end result was their latest recording, The Memphis Barbeque Sessions. According to the liner notes, Mississippi drummer Sam Carr was also scheduled to appear on the CD, but was scratched at the last minute due to illness and replaced by Mark Carpentieri on the drums.
The Memphis Barbeque Sessions is aptly titled because, as you listen, it is easy to imagine yourself at a country barbeque or a house rent party in rural Mississippi. With the exception of three songs on the thirteen song CD, all instruments and vocals are handled by "The Oilman" and Kim Wilson. Chicago blues piano giant Pine Top Perkins checks in on two songs, "Humming Blues" and "Lonesome Road." Mark Carpentieri adds drums on the same two songs, along with a third, Elmore James' classic, "Dust My Broom." The songs include five originals by Big Jack and excellent covers of songs by Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James and Eddie Jones.
The CD opens with two Jack Johnson originals, "Oh Baby" and "Humming Blues." "Humming Blues" is pretty much a fully instrumented acoustic blues tune with excellent harp work by Kim Wilson and excellent background instrumentation by Pinetop Perkins and Mark Carpentieri. Wilson's harp is dominating throughout the CD, but especially on the two Little Walter tunes, "Don't Care Nothing" and" My Babe." Big Jack takes almost full responsibility for vocals on the CD, except for one song, the slow blues Jack Johnson original, I'm Going Out Walking," which features vocals that are curiously handled by Kim Wilson.
Along with the Jack Johnson originals are several classic blues tunes, in addition to those previously mentioned. These include Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning," "Blue Bird" by John Lee Hooker, the blues standard "Big Boss Man" from Jimmy Reed, "Things I Used To Do" by Eddie Jones and another classic standard, Elmore James' "Dust My Broom." Each of these classics gets the Big Jack Johnson signature treatment, accompanied nicely by Kim Wilson and Mark Carpentieri (only on "Dust My Broom").
Fans of Big Jack Johnson and Kim Wilson especially will enjoy the virtuoso performances by these two great bluesmen. With an added bonus by the immortal Pinetop Perkins, blues lovers will get more than their money's worth when purchasing The Memphis Barbeque Sessions. For more information or to purchase a copy of The Memphis Barbeque Sessions, visit M.C. Records website at www.mc-records.com.
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