It has been said that you should play blues from the heart. Have fun and let the energy flow. Recently, in an e-mail discussion with fellow blues lovers, somebody described Junior's playing this way. I couldn't agree more. Junior certainly deserves the respect for being one of the most inventive guitar players of all time. He hails from the heart of the west coast blues scene. He has played with a "who's who" of blues players. He has played and recorded with the likes of Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, George "Harmonica" Smith, Kim Wilson, Lynwood Slim, William Clarke and countless others. He even spent stage time with one of his many heroes, Pee Wee Crayton. Ask almost any player in the Jump Blues/West Coast scene and they will surely list Junior as an icon and a key source for inspiration.
Junior is currently touring with a top-notch group of players. The band includes Kedar Roy on Upright Bass, Jimmy Mulleniux on Drums, and Tom Mahon on Piano. It was a great surprise to see that Junior and Company would be making a stop at Famous Dave's BBQ in Calhoun Square on a warm Friday night. What do you get when you mix Junior Watson, some famous BBQ Ribs from Dave, and a standing room only crowd? A House Party. Tonight's show was no exception. The event even brought out a "who's who" of Twin Cities Talent… at least from the guitar player side of things.
The band played a mixture of covers from Amos Millburn's "House Party" to Pee Wee Crayton's "Blues After Hours" and Earl Hooker's "The Hucklebuck." Junior also played several tracks from his 1994 Black Top Records release "Long Overdue." Junior has a keen sense of humor and is a great storyteller. He kept the crowd easily entertained between songs as if he was hosting a VH1 Storyteller's episode. Junior is one of the most amazing guitar players to watch in person. Not only does he keep the guitar players in trance, but he also makes sure that the audience pays attention too. He even played one of my favorite songs called "Reach For Your Telephone" from the 1998 release "Back to Back" which he released with Lynwood Slim.
One thing for sure is that Junior Watson knows how to put on a great show. Recently I had the chance to sit down and talk with Junior and he gave me a small piece of stage advice. He told me that all guitar players should have a gimmick, something that will capture the audience's attention. I think Junior has mastered a number of gimmicks. He plays his guitar between his legs, he moves around the stage with humorous intentions and great flash, and he has the ability to connect with the audience.
It doesn't matter if you like straight up Chicago blues, pure swing, or just some hardcore blues you are sure to find something to enjoy in Junior Watson. He keeps the crowd up dancing the entire night all while keeping a cool disposition on stage. Into the third set, Jeremy Johnson from the Big George Jackson Blues Band had the chance to sit in with the band. Many of the band members were unfamiliar with the presence of Jeremy Johnson. It was great seeing local talent get the respect they deserve. Junior Watson and band will be making a return trip to Minnesota in August. They will be playing the Narrow's Saloon in Navarre, MN on August 30th. Don't pass up the chance to see this West Coast Blues Legend… and bring your dancing shoes.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Shawn T. Wallin, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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