Hot Fish Laundry Mat? Whuzzat? It appears, from the cover, to be a somewhat arbitrarily chosen title taken from a storefront sign. And it seems as good a moniker as any for what's a decidedly eclectic collection by the Atlanta-based King Johnson.
The origin of the band's name is easy enough to trace; King, as in B. B., Albert, Freddie, and Johnson as in Robert and Blind Willie. Describing the band's sound, however, proves considerably trickier. There's blues at the core, to be sure, but it's buried beneath layers of greasy funk, New Orleans-style rhythms, and a free-wheeling jam-band sensibility that combines an 'anything goes' attitude with razor-sharp chops. Perhaps one of the song titles on this, the band's fourth release, sums it up best; "adultcontemporaryrootsrockbluesjazzfunk." (Nope, that's not a typo on steroids). The song is a decidedly tongue-in-cheek poke at the music industry's insistence on categorization, something one would guess the six band members adamantly oppose; the title may well be as close as one's likely to get to encompassing all that is King Johnson.
That the group's approach is eclectic indeed should come as no surprise considering the instrumentation involved; in addition to the standard guitar, bass, and drums, there's sax, clarinet, flute, trombone, and sousaphone; the band includes a percussionist (Chris Uhler), and drummer Greg Baba is also credited with window weights and shekere. Yet while unconventional, everything's put to good use - there's nothing here of novelty for novelty's sake. It's simply a reflection of a restless musical curiosity and extraordinary skill at a variety of instruments, all filtered through an unerring flair for slippery and deeply funky grooves.
I'd stop short of recommending this to anyone looking for a straight-ahead blues outing, but for fans of jam bands, a legacy that starts with Little Feat and continues on through such aural adventurers as the North Mississippi Allstars and Medeski, Martin and Wood (whose bassist, Chris, is the brother of King Johnson's guitarist Oliver), there's much to savour on Hot Fish Laundry Mat.
Just be sure to expect the unexpected . . .
P. O. Box 20387,
Atlanta, GA 30325
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