Friday, November 9, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Sixteen

In a couple of weeks, Chicago blues guitarist Jimmy Johnson will turn 89 years old.  Johnson is the brother of soul-blues legend Syl Johnson and the late Mack Thompson, who was Magic Sam's bass player (Thompson is the family's given last name).  Johnson is still going strong, having most recently recorded a Magic Sam track for Delmark's Tribute album several months ago.  He still sounds as good as he did when I first heard his Bar Room Preacher album released by Alligator in the 80's.  He originally played soul and R&B, backing Otis Clay and Denise LaSalle, among others, and also leading his own group.  He gravitated to the blues in the mid 70's, backing Otis Rush on Rush's live disc recorded in Japan for Delmark and appearing on Alligator's Living Chicago Blues series in 1978.  Eventually, he recorded a pair of albums for the label (North/South and Johnson Whacks), beginning at the age of 50.  He's enjoyed a nice bit of success over the years and has released some quality recordings including a fine
one with his brother, Syl (Two Johnsons Are Better Than One).

Johnson's brand of blues combine blues, soul, and R&B in equal measure.....his soulful vocals are very distinctive, and his guitar work is equally distinctive and instantly recognizable to most blues fans.  His 1994 release for Verve Records was called I'm A Jockey and featured Billy Branch and Lucky Peterson, who also released albums for Verve during that same time period.  I'm A  Jockey is a fine mix of originals and cover tunes that Johnson does in his own unique style.  My favorite track is Johnson's slow burning take on Percy Mayfield's "The Highway Is Like A Woman," which is Track Sixteen on Volume Two of our Blues Fix Mix CD.

This song has special significance to me, as far as Friday Blues Fix goes.  Years ago, when I started Friday Blues Fix as a group email to some of my friends and co-workers, this was the very first song that I sent to them.  I have worked on many of the Mississippi highways in my area for over 30 years, so that was part of the reason I used it.  Also, I love Percy Mayfield's songs and this is one of my favorites.....I love the comparison of a highway and a woman ("soft shoulders and dangerous curves") and I really like Johnson's guitar work on this track.  The entire album is worth a listen, as is all of Johnson's catalog, so if you have a chance, check it out......and if you have a chance to see him live, check him out.

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