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October / November 2008

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John Weston
So Doggone Blue
Fat Possum / Evidence

John Weston

John Weston made his recording debut in 1992 with So Doggone Blue. The album was the third release of the Oxford, Mississippi-based Fat Possum label. Weston, an Arkansas native, worked as a farmer, butcher, mechanic, and carpenter, but always played music on the side. He absorbed many styles, including jazz, country, and the blues, and learned to play the harmonica, eventually getting some assistance in expanding his skills from Willie Cobbs. In 1988, at the age of 61, Weston gave his first solo performance in Helena, Arkansas in front of Bubba Wallace’s record store and soon gained national recognition by winning the Blues Foundation’s prestigious Lucille Award in 1989. All of these events led to the making of So Doggone Blue.

Fat Possum Records, then owned by Matthew Johnson and Peter Lee, was in its early stages, with a two-album catalog consisting of a pair of excellent albums from RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, and Weston’s brand of down-home laid-back Delta blues was quite different from their previous releases. Weston employed Blues Force as his backing band, which featured Troy Lee Broussard, who had recorded with Willie Cobbs and played with Earl Hooker, on guitar, Nathaniel “Herk” Williams, who played with Albert King, on drums, and James “Famous” Jones, who played bass for Cobbs.

Weston showed himself to be a very capable harmonica player, playing both chromatic and diatonic, and vocally, his warm, relaxed style was perfect. However, Weston’s songs were a cut above the standard fare, dealing with familiar blues themes in a mature, sometimes humorous, sometimes bittersweet way.

Highlights included the rousing opener, “Leaving Home,” “Back To The Country,” “Coloration,” “Stuck With The Blues,” Broussard’s instrumental, “Squeeze Play,” “You Didn’t Fool Me,” and the reflective “Younger Days.” Broussard arranged the songs and provided some wonderful stinging guitar fills, and the Williams/Jones combination added airtight rhythm support. You’d be hard-pressed to find a tighter band than Blues Force.

There wasn’t anything fancy about So Doggone Blue. It didn’t win any awards or receive a lot of notice at the time, but it was an enjoyable, rock-solid set of Delta Blues that could have easily come from the Sun studio in the late ’50s.

Fat Possum didn’t record Weston again, and eventually dropped So Doggone Blue from their catalog during their financial reconstruction in the mid ’90s. That honor of releasing Weston’s second album fell to Peter Lee, who left Fat Possum in the mid ’90s and formed the short-lived Midnight Creeper Records. Weston continued to record an album every few years or so for various labels, eventually settling with Fedora, where he recorded a solo disc plus one with Dave Riley and Sam Carr as The Delta Jukes. He passed away a few years ago after a long bout with cancer.

Currently, So Doggone Blue is a part of Evidence Records’ catalog, so it’s still out there if you get hungry for a set of good old down-home blues.

--- Graham Clarke


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