My most recent visit to The BamBoo Room in Lake Worth, Florida was special for a couple of reasons. First, it was my wife Mary Kay's maiden visit to the South Florida blues club that I rave so much about and, second, it was my first opportunity to see North Mississippi's James "Super Chikan" Johnson perform.
Super Chikan is a cousin of Mississippi bluesman Big Jack Johnson and an exceptional guitarist and singer in his own right. A recent signee by Fat Possum Records, Super Chikan's first recording on the new label is entitled What You See. What You See is a strong follow-up to Super Chikan's initial release on Rooster Records, Blues Come Home To Roost. After listening to Super Chikan perform live, it was clear that neither of his records do justice to his considerable talents, especially on guitar.
With the assistance of his daughter Jamiesa Turner on drums and Andrew Turner on bass, Super Chikan and The Fighting Cocks opened with an extended version of Freddie King's classic, "Hideaway." During a second funkier instrumental, Super Chikan introduced his band mates and blasted through a series of first rate guitar solos.
The evening featured a combination of extended instrumentals, unique covers and a number of original tunes from Johnson's two recordings. Among the more interesting songs on Saturday night was a great up-tempo version of Howlin' Wolf's classic "Little Red Rooster," complete with some incredibly authentic rooster crows by Super Chikan. During this song and throughout the evening, Super Chikan proved himself to be a vibrant performer with a great deal of expression and enthusiasm.
On originals like "The Real You," Ain't Nobody," "Tin Top Shack" and "Big Boy Now," Super Chikan was butt-shakin' and struttin' onstage, playing the guitar with his tongue and repeatedly shouting his personal mantra, "Somebody Shoot That Thing!" "Big Boy Now" included some Roy Acuff/Gene Autry style yodeling and boogie guitar. The band also incorporated a portion of John Lee Hooker's boogie, "Boom Boom" into the song for good measure.
The band was hot, the crowd enthusiastic and all in all it was a great evening of blues by James "Super Chikan" Johnson and The Fighting Cocks. With the stage decorated with Super Chikan's hand made and hand painted diddley bows, along with a working guitar made from a military gas can fitted with a Stella guitar neck, The BamBoo Room definitely had the juke joint feel going on that evening!
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, 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.