Every time I see Johnnie Marshall, he just keeps getting better and better. This time I thought I'd catch him on his trip through town at a new place that is quickly building a reputation as a great new blues club. With the buzz about The Narrows going around, the choice to catch Johnnie there was an easy one to make.
Marshall, born and raised in Wigham, Georgia, has a touch of that early Robert Cray styling in his songwriting, guitar work and his vocals. One song after another, it's very captivating to watch him all night long swing from style to style. Johnnie really knows how to work a crowd. He's very careful not to blast everyone out of the room right from the start, unlike a lot of other bands out there right now. Johnnie's band was great. Forgive me for not getting their names, but I do remember that his bass player was from Poland, now living in New York, I believe. They ran through a few standards that got everyone going; "Five Long Years," "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Stormy Monday" and Sonny Boy's "Don't Start Me Talkin'."
Mixing in a lot of material from his two CD's on JSP, he wove in each original song very cleanly through all of the standards and classics. It was a seamless blend of traditional blues aesthetics and poetic motifs with a modern flair for clean arrangements, polished vocals, and uncluttered guitar attacks. Johnnie's latest release on JSP; "With All My Might", is chocked full of great tunes and it was a shear pleasure to hear them all live.
The straight-ahead blues of "That's When The Blues Puts It's Hook In You" and "Found Another Woman." The hard-edged slow blues packed with burning guitar work in "Tired Of The Way You Treat Me", was very moving. "South Georgia Boogie" was another guitar workout that rocked from beginning to end. One of Marshall's strongest suits is contemporary soul/blues, as was evident in "Heart Of Gold", "Please Open The Door" and "Lookin' out My Window." Topped off with a couple of Marshall's own; "The Blues" and "Work Hard For My Money," and the night was complete. It was a great show all in all. Don't miss Johnnie next time he comes through town.
The Narrows is a fun place to go. They have been booking a lot of great blues acts, mostly local, but they are starting to bring in some nationals from time to time and seem to be committed to more in the future. There is still a little finishing work to be done in the place, but it's shaping up quite nice. The only complaint I've heard over and over (from bands and customers) is that it's too bright in the place. It looks great, with lots of neon, but it does distract a little from that dark, smoke filled blues juke joint atmosphere and mood that everyone is used to. The Narrows is a great venue and it will catch on real quick.
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