"Keeping the Blues Alive Award" Achievement for Blues on the Internet Presented by The Blues Foundation
As a consummate sideman - his only other outing as leader was 1994's aptly titled 'Long Overdue,' on the now-defunct Black Top label - it's taken a while for Junior Watson to make his name known. It's only of late that he's finally becoming widely recognized as one of the most innovative and influential guitarists around. Yet Junior's resume reads like a blues who's who. A founding member of the Mighty Flyers, he spent a number of years with Canned Heat, and has worked with the likes of James Harman, William Clarke, Kim Wilson, Jimmy Rogers, and Snooky Pryor.
Junior's following, though, tends to be somewhat rabid; those familiar with his work know he's one of the most idiosyncratic players around, given to quirky asides and wonky excursions of breathtaking bravery; in short, if there's anything one can expect from Junior it's the unexpected. Perhaps that's why he's never really achieved mainstream renown.
"If I Had A Genie" will undoubtedly please Junior's fan base (and I count myself among them), but probably won't win him a whole lot of new admirers, unless they're looking for something a little more adventurous than typical fare.
Things start out in a straightforward manner with Lazy Lester's "Word About A Woman," with Junior employing his somewhat constricted voice to excellent effect. Next, though, it's the rumba-like title track, something of a novelty tune from Johnny Otis. It's cool, to be sure, but a little too wacky to convince those who prefer their solos screaming, their chords crunchy. "Early In The Morning," an obscurity by Boogie Jake (not to be confused with B. B.'s better-known "Early Every Morning"), is again straightforward, but it's followed by the Mexican-flavoured "Two Tacos," a somewhat bizarre instrumental that manages to wear out its welcome even though it clocks in at just over two minutes. Bumblebee Slim's Lonesome Old Feeling" and Pee Wee Crayton's "Blues After Hours" are both firmly within twelve-bar tradition, the former swinging like mad, the latter appropriately moody and exquisitely tasteful. Snooks Eaglin's "Call Everybody Sweetheart" covers the New Orleans base, while "Flappin'," a collaboration between Junior and Barron, fairly oozes grease, Mr. Taylor's piano a highlight throughout. Woo Woo Moore's stop-time "Something's Wrong" is ideally suited to Junior's vocal limitations, and "It's You" (a Peppermint Harris composition) is slow and soulful. Junior's own "Spring Roll" has a jazzy feel (one would guess Junior's spent a great deal of time studying masters like Tiny Grimes), and Amos Milburn's "House Party" is righteously raucous. But the closer, the self-penned "Strangest Woman," again shows Junior's quirky side. Interesting enough, but I can't imagine listening to it too often.
As befits someone of Junior's stature, everything's done extremely well. That said, and keeping in mind I've been a huge fan for a number of years . . . well, there's a certain lack of heat here. I prefer tone and taste over volume and speed, but somehow this outing seems to simmer a little too much, never quite coming to a boil. Nonetheless, it remains a fascinating listen, and an absolute necessity for Junior's fans. Others, however, might want to give it a listen first.
Heart And Soul Records
1961 Rice Street, Roseville, MN 55113
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