Long John Hunter
Swinging From the Rafters
Alligator 4853
Early risers in Dallas recently got to see Long John Hunter perform a song from Swinging From the Rafters on "Good Morning Texas" -- a chat show. Seems like the man whose first CD (Border Town Legend) came out in early 1997 is everywhere now, plainly not suffering from a sophomore slump.

Here's great, galumphing rhythms, oily guitar, hot horns and (most importantly!) cool songs, most penned by Hunter with help from sundry cronies. "Stop What You're Doing" is a salsa-fied rocker, while "Take It Home With you" is salaciously soulish. Both conjure visions of a dance floorful of Texa-fied trailer trash with commendable clarity. Horns spike all 14 cuts save two: One being the rawboned shuffle "Locksmith Man" (with cawing harp from Kaz Kazanoff); the other, an "unplugged" item called "In the Country," with Hunter singing wittily about his days in the sticks while showing himself to be a fair hand on acoustic guitar.

But he's back in character with his Strat on "Bugs on My Window," another shuffle, and "I Don't Care" (the tune he did on the TV show), with hip-thrusting accents and lyrics that would be bitter as Dylan but for the laconic warmth in Hunter's voice. Some might argue he's too amiable a singer -- and he's sure no shouter -- but he has his own sort of power, and you can understand every word he says.

There's more evocative imagery on "Walking Catfish," on which Hunter likens himself to that species of fish so ornery if it doesn't dig its water, it jumps out and flops away. Throughout the set, Hunter contributes stinging guitar and is backed ably. Saxist Kevin Brown, from Hunter's road band, does a particularly striking solo on "I Don't Care," on which Austin stalwart Derek O'Brien is heard on guitar. No doubt about it: Long John Hunter is a bluesman not to be missed.

-- Tim Schuller

This page and all contents are © 1998 by Blues Access,
Boulder, CO, USA.