Got to Deal With the Blues
Midnight Creeper 1002-2
Septuagenarian John Weston hails from Brinkley, Arkansas, a spot on the map midway between Little Rock and Memphis and up the road from Clarksdale. With those rich Delta roots, you might figure him for one of them front-porch guys whoís been playing blues since before dirt. Not so. This bluesman only took up the music as a hobby in 1970 and began performing publicly about 20 years ago.
That said, itís also very clear from his music that Weston has been around and absorbed the Delta blues all of his life. From his musical styling, itís just as evident that he has been influenced by his interest in jazz and country music. At the age of 49, with some help from Willie Cobb, Weston took up the chromatic harmonica to accompany his rich baritone voice.
But foremost, Weston is a gifted songwriter who uses the grist of man-woman tribulations to extract wit and insight from mundane observations. "Take your trash to the dump ground, I ainít gonna take your junk no moí," heíll bluntly tell the sweet talking phony in the appropriately titled "Iím Not Your Garbage Man." Or about a woman who loves liquor more than her man heíll sing, "If I was a glass of liquor, my baby would hold me all night long," as he does on "Liquid Love." And his song about the great Mississippi Valley flood of 1993, "Mighty Mississippi," includes his observation that the "River reminds me of a woman, sheíll take your house and home, sheíll leave you outdoors and you ainít done nothing wrong." He is quick to add by explanation, "When I write songs about women doing me wrong, Iím not putting women down."
Good luck with that line John.
Those unfamiliar with John Westonís music who might be fearing a set of relentlessly unvaried 12-bar blues will be very surprised by the breadth and diversity of his style. Yes, itís (thankfully) rooted in the deep blues of home, but he also brings to it some much-needed freshness and a penchant for propulsive bass lines and a pronounced backbeat, for starters. His smooth vocal style (which keeps reminding me of Charlie Musselwhite) also reflects close listening to the big-band crooners of his day. His taste for country music pops up in the arrangement of the ballad "Phony Woman" (there he goes with that woman thing again) and his chromatic accompaniment.
And speaking of the chromatic, Westonís playing stands in stark contrast to so many other practitioners who use the instrument to display technical wizardry. Westonís blowing is light and airy and his brief solos perfectly placed to add musical color and depth. His solo in the wonderfully traditional title track is a prime example.
In guitarist Troy Broussard, Weston also has a gifted accomplice more interested in precise phrasing and brief supportive statements then in show-stopping self-indulgence. Their instrumental duet "Side Dish" is a tasty, slightly funky interplay. And together they show they also know how to knock out a classic piece of Chicago blues in the setís finale, "The Blues Got Me Too." John Weston is yet another example of the richness of living blues still with us today.
ó Jack Oudiz