Jimmy Johnsonís debut for the German
Ruf label alternately strikes creative sparks and smothers the flame.
Working from a base that is as much soul as blues, the former Grammy
Award nominee employs an uptown approach to both rhythm and backbeat,
relying heavily on Kenny Leeís vamping Hammond organ and a small, tight
horn section. All of this is set against Johnsonís tart single-note
guitar style and keening tenor vocals.
Johnson wrote seven of the albumís
ten songs, and he is at his best when the words crack together with
humor and wisdom. Such ditties as "Roots of All Evil," "Ainít
No Way" and "End of the Road" (featuring some energizing
lead guitar from guest star Luther Allison) entertain as well as instruct
his listeners on the merits of a good heart and a positive attitude.
The former Magic Sam and Freddie King sideman also dishes out some tasty
R&B with a reggae edge on "The Street You Live On," but
this is the only diversion from a studio formula hampered by repetition.
Johnson and company seem unable
to let go of a good groove and pad out nearly every tune with extra
riffs and some lengthy same-sounding solos. This not only blunts the
impact of the really good songs, it stagnates the slighter material.
A little focus and restraint would have gone a long way toward improving
these solid cover versions of "Cut You Loose" and "Black
Night," yet they too are rendered tedious and overlong.
A blues veteran of Johnsonís caliber
is always worth a listen, but this outing would probably sit best with
longtime fans rather than first-timers.
ó Ken Burke