Call it old wine in old bottles, but for lovers of Delta blues itís still fine. Real fine.
Thatís what Robert Lockwood Jr.ís Delta Crossroads is about. Itís just the 85-year-old Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, native, his 12-string guitar and some of the first songs he ever learned: "Mr. Downchild," "32-20 Blues," "I Believe Iíll Dust My Broom," "Stop Breakiní Down Blues," "Rambliní on My Mind" and "Love in Vain Blues." Songs by the man Lockwood considers his "quasi-stepdad," Robert Johnson.
Lockwood, who was only four years younger than his "stepdad," is considered by many to be the last living link to Johnson and his guitar style. Indeed, Johnson taught Lockwood how to play guitar in the 1930s. But Lockwood is more than that. He has his own style, with a subtlety and swing that you donít always hear in a blues guitarist. And he has five of his own songs on this record, along with the ageless "C.C. Rider," Leroy Carrís "Mean Mistreater Momma" and "Key to the Highway" by Jazz Gillum (not, Lockwood says, by Big Bill Broonzy).
Hometown Turkey Scratch is just 25 miles from Helena, Arkansas, the home of KFFA radio and King Biscuit Time, where Lockwood kept time with harp player Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) and the King Biscuit Boys. He grew up playing the Delta juke joints and barrelhouses in Arkansas and Mississippi.
Lockwood tells an old story in the album notes of this laid-back CD about knocking around Clarksdale, Mississippi, with Johnson. "They got a little river there called the Sunflower River. Itís not too wide, but Robert was on one side and I was on the other. The people didnít know which one of us was Robert Johnson. They were listeniní to us play and walkiní to and fro across the bridge. What Robert said was that we would make more money if we stood opposite and got them on both sides."
Just imagine Lockwood on one side of the Sunflower with his 12-string. Put on Delta Crossroads, sit on the Lockwood side, and go back home ó just like Lockwood has with this recording, a session which he quite clearly intends to honor his stepdad and all of the many stepsons and stepdaughters who love this music.
ó Jeff Waggoner