Southern Rock Opera

SXSW 02 Music Fest Wrap-up

Big Jack Johnson & Kim Wilson

Antone's, Saturday 16 After several days of ear-shattering rock & roll and jarring hip-hop beats, it was an aural palette cleansing of sorts to hear a down-home set by Clarksdale, Miss., singer/guitarist Big Jack Johnson and former Fab T-Bird harmonica ace Kim Wilson. Johnson, affectionately referred to as the Oilman and a longtime member of the Jelly Roll Kings, has been tearing up juke joints in the Delta for decades. The two bluesmen were in town marking the release of their collaborative album, The Memphis Barbecue Sessions, which finds the pair rollicking through a program of traditional blues tunes on amplified acoustic instruments. A small but enthusiastic crowd was treated to an intimate, back-porch performance of well-worn blues standards like Jimmy Reed's "Big Boss Man" and "You Don't Have to Go" and Elmore James' "Dust My Broom," replete with hair-raising slide guitar by Johnson. At times reminiscent of a less-polished Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, a more accurate description might be a rough-hewn Sonny Boy Williamson and Joe Willie Wilkins from their days on KFAA's King Biscuit Show. Serving up sterling renditions of all-too-familiar, riff-heavy blues signatures as old as the rich Delta soil from which they grew, Wilson and Johnson locked into a tight groove that rocked as deeply and joyfully as anything these ears heard all week. Sometimes with all the loud commotion around us, one loses a sense of the magic still to be found in the passion and simplicity of the blues.

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Johnson, Big Jack, Wilson, Kim

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