Larry Johnson
Fast and Funky
Baltimore Blues Society
Stride guitarist Larry Johnson has lately been rediscovered, and Fast and Funky is the second of his two 1970s albums to be re-released in the past year. Johnson, a native Georgian who now makes his home in New York City, is an original country bluesman, not a museum piece or academic curiosity. A student and disciple of the Rev. Gary Davis (and probably the most true to Davis in style and sensibility of Davis' many students), he plays and sings soulfully and with great feeling, something rarely combined with such strong technical skills.

Johnson heeded Davis' advice to play the "hard chords," and his picking is clean, melodic, firm, delicate and harmonically complex. All of the 14 songs here are strong: "Charley Stone," about a traveling trombone player, is a favorite, as is the upbeat "Pick Poor Robin Clean" and the classic "Frisco Blues."

One omission is the absence of any authorship or publishing information, though I imagine that some are Johnson's arrangements of traditional tunes and others are original compositions. But it's a minor complaint; Fast and Funky includes the original and updated liner notes and the original cover photo of Johnson in a vintage pinstripe suit with a vintage guitar. We are in the debt of the Baltimore Blues Society for making this marvelous album available to a whole new generation.

-- Jennifer Zogott

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Boulder, CO, USA.