"Every Road Ends Somewhere" sees Jimmy Johnson building on 1994's "I'm a Jockey" album to further enhance his reputation as a purveyor of the finest Chicago style Blues. His recording career only began at 50, and this is only his second album since returning to the Blues after a tragic road accident in the late 1980's. Johnson--elder brother of Syl Johnson and Mack Thompson--is a very fine guitarist with a plaintive soulful voice that's ideally suited to the choice of material.
The album contains seven originals alongside covers by Jimmy Davis ("Blue Monday"), Jessie Mae Robinson ("Black Night"), and Mel London ("Cut You Loose"). The style is very much Chicago based Blues, often with an injection of soulful funk that puts Johnson alongside the likes of Little Milton. The opener track, "Roots of All Evil," offers a glimpse at the funkier side of things, driven by bassist Anthony Morris and drummer William Ellis, assisted by John Randolph on rhythm guitar.
By way of a slight digression, Johnson offers a touch of Jamaica on "The Street You Live On," which is underpinned by a lilting reggae backbeat. It illustrates the adaptability of the band, and Johnson's skills as a songwriter. He tackles the contemporary issue of everyday survival and getting out of the ghetto proclaiming that: "You gotta be tough/When the going gets rough/You gotta be strong/To keep on keeping on/The world is so much bigger/Than the street you live on."
Johnson's talents as a guitarist are highlighted best on "My Baby By My Side." Johnson provides short fills throughout the verses, handing over the first solo break to Paul Cerra on tenor sax, before he breaks out into an extended solo before the final verse. The whole song is laid over some beautifully constructed organ from Kenny Lee.
The cover of "Cut You Loose" is excellent, and gives the excellent horn section a chance to really shine. Cerra does another particularly fine job on tenor sax. It's followed by the romping "End of the Road," which allows Johnson to tear it up on guitar, alongside his friend Luther Allison. The album is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Allison, and Johnson's excellent bassist and long time cohort, Anthony Morris, both of whom passed away between the recording of the album in 1997 and its recent release.
The quality that permeates the album should translate into good sales and provide Johnson with the rewards he so richly deserves. There is a real contemporary feel to the playing and the songwriting throughout. "Every Road Ends Somewhere" should serve to reinforce Jimmy Johnson's credentials as one of the finest Bluesmen that Chicago currently has to offer. Recommended.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.