Big Jack Johnson

SXSW Records

Phases and Stages

Big Jack Johnson

The Memphis Barbecue Sessions (M.C.) What hath R.L. Burnside wrought? A much-needed appreciation for bare-bones, no-frills blues, something Big Jack Johnson knows a thing or two about. The Clarksdale, Mississippi guitarist has spent enough of his life as a truck driver to get out of the frying pan and into the studio fire, bringing in no less than master blues chefs Kim Wilson and Pinetop Perkins. The Memphis Barbecue Sessions serves up meaty blues, 13 tracks of tasty originals ("Oh Baby," "Lonesome Road") topped with smokin' traditional favorites (Elmore James' "Dust My Broom," Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning"). And just when you think you've tried those ingredients before, Johnson spices the mix with a pinch of mandolin ("Humming Blues"). There's not much new here for the blues fan, but real blues fans don't go looking for new frontiers, they're satisfied with the lowdown, which Kim Wilson's expert instrumental turn on Little Walter's "My Babe" demonstrates. (Wilson also sings on "I'm Going Out Walking"). The eightysomething Pinetop Perkins is pounding the piano in fine form on "Humming Blues" and "Lonesome Road," as energetic as anyone one-quarter his age. And that's what these three (along with drummer Mark Carpentieri) bring to the table: a lifetime of experience that makes every cut on the menu savory. The Memphis Barbecue Sessions are not to be played on an empty stomach. (Saturday, March 16, Antone's, 1am)


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