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CD Review
Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson
& The Magic Rockers
"Got To Find A Way"
Telarc CD-83445
By Dave "Doc" Piltz
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Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson was born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, the birthplace of the venerable B.B. King, and has been one of the strongest, most lasting purveyors of the West Side sound. Johnson's single note run style has prevailed, while some of his contemporaries including Otis Rush and Buddy Guy have chosen to stray. Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson and The Magic Rockers latest release, Got To Find A Way, is a fine demonstration of Johnson's talents and his commitment to the West Side sound.

Supported by The Magic Rockers, Travis Colby (Keyboards); Brian Bisesi (Rhythm Guitar); Lynwood Cooke (Saxophone); and the able rhythms of Randy Lippincott (Bass) and Ola Dixon (Drums), Johnson sings and plays eleven songs featuring his distinctive guitar and vocals. Five of the eleven tunes are written or co-written by Johnson. The other songs include such notable blues stars as Little Milton Campbell, B.B. King, Eddie Boyd and Luther Allison.

From the first tune to the last, Johnson offers some great guitar work with fine supporting solos featuring Lynwood Cooke's saxophone and Travis Colby's keyboards. The Johnson original, "On Your Way Fishin'," offers a clear Chicago sound and features strong solos by Johnson and Cooke. Johnson, Cooke and Colby all solo on the up tempo title track, "Got To Find A Way."

Johnson remains faithful to the sound on an intense cover of Luther Allison's, "Luther's Blues," which also offers a very soulful saxophone solo by Lynwood Cooke. Johnson's solos on this song are hard hitting and very reminiscent of the late Allison's stinging guitar. As a long time Luther Allison fan, this was definitely a highlight of the recording for me.

Johnson's "You Ought To Be Ashamed," is another fine song that features great solos by Johnson, Cooke and Travis Colby on piano. With a sound similar to "Sweet Home Chicago," this is definitely a song that makes you want to get up out of your chair and move around. It is followed by Milton Campbell's, "So Mean To Me," a reminder of "Hoochie Coochie Man" that offers yet another reason to enjoy the CD. Johnson mellows out a little on B. B. King's "I Gotta Move Out Of My Neighborhood," and plays some King sounding riffs on this excellent cover, followed by some tasty piano by Colby.

The recording ends with another Johnson original entitled, "Talkin' On My Phone." This is a standard "end of the evening" tune where Johnson introduces all of the members of the band, thanks everyone and even allows rhythm guitarist, Brian Bisesi, an opportunity to provide the only guitar solo not played by Johnson.

One unique aspect of Got To Find A Way is that it is an enhanced CD. If you have access to a personal computer with graphics capabilities, you can put the CD into your CD-ROM drive to find pictures of Johnson and The Magic Rockers; a bio and article on Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson; and information/sound clips for several other Telarc offerings. The disc also includes a video bonus track entitled, "Sometimes I Wonder," featuring Johnson and Bisesi on acoustic guitars. This is an added bonus for any fans of Luther and the band.

After listening to Got To Find A Way, it was nice to know that Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, a former sideman for Magic Sam and Muddy Waters, has continued to blossom on his own, while remaining true to his West Side roots. The continued quality of Johnson's guitar licks makes it clear that his second recording for Telarc, and his fifth solo release, won't be his last.

(Reprinted from Cruzin' the Bluz).

This review is copyright © 1998 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.

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