On "With All My Might" Johnnie Marshall builds on the reputation he established on "Live For Today," his debut for the UK-based JSP label. Although a relative latecomer to the Blues--he spent 15 years working in a meat packing plant--the combination of his life experiences, and his Baptist upbringing have helped to shape his style. The end result is a Southern Urban Blues style, with the occasional dash of funk thrown in.
Marshall has a smooth guitar style, which shows the odd trace of the two Alberts (King and Collins), and a hint of B.B./T-Bone ("South Georgia Boogie" in particular). Whilst the end result betrays these influences of Memphis and Texas, it never falls too neatly into either pigeonhole. His guitar style is complemented by a soulful voice, with just the right amounts of sweetness and sharpness.
The band provide the perfect foil for Marshall's talents. The rhythm section is very tight, and is shown off to its best effect on the funky "Work Hard For My Money." Add to that the keyboards of Roy Rodrigues, to round out the sound, and the Nutmeg Horns--also featured on producer Johnny Rawls' last album--for extra punch, and you have all the ingredients for a perfect recipe of Blues. As on Rawls' album, tenor sax player, Bruce Feiner, lends a hand or two in the songwriting department. This leads to some obvious stylistic similarities between the works of Marshall and Rawls: no bad thing, in my opinion.
There's plenty of interesting material on offer among the twelve original tracks. The opening track, "That's When The Blues Puts Its Hook In You," for example, sounds a little like some of Hendrix's more soulful Blues stuff. There's also the driving beat of the autobiographical "Work Hard For My Money" telling of the wife, three kids, and having to work hard for a living.
Probably the best tracks, though, are the last two. "Lookin' Out My Window" is built on a simple, repetitive refrain, but is a delight, featuring some particularly fine guitar work by Marshall. He's also in sparkling form on the closer ("Please Open Up the Door") where at one point he almost sounds like he's playing a duet with himself. The solo, which is cleverly punctuated by the horns, all comes to a seemingly premature end.
"With All My Might" is another in the growing line of quality releases from JSP. It sees Johnnie Marshall starting to quickly mature into a very fine artist, and staking his claim to a place in the higher echelons of the Blues. A recommended purchase from a man who is going places.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.