2016, guitarist Johnny Burgin moved from
Chicago to California, drawn by the host of
talented Bay Area blues artists. Even though he
left the Windy City, its influences remain
firmly entrenched as evidenced by his recent
release, Live (Delmark Records). The
album was recorded at Redwood Café in Cotati,
California with an impressive list of West Coast
talent backing him – Aki Kumar (harmonica), Kid
Andersen (guitar, piano), and Burgin’s regular
road band – Chris Matheos (bass), Steve
Dougherty (drums), with special guests Charlie
Musselwhite (harp), Rae Gordon (vocals), and
Nancy Wright (sax).
Live is not your ordinary “live” recording.
There are several original tunes are being heard
for the first time on disc and Burgin and his
bandmates do not play together regularly. The
fact that I told you this will probably be the
only way that you would have known this because
the group sounds like a well-oiled machine.
opener, “You Got To Make A Change,” is a lively,
swinging shuffle that will get toes tapping, and
“Can’t Make It Blues” is a desperate slow burner
with serious guitar work from both Burgin and
Andersen. The funky mid-tempo “She Gave Me The
Slip” has a little touch of the swamp mixed in,
and on “You’re My Trinket,” Burgin’s crisp
guitar work recalls Otis Rush.
Hooker’s instrumental, “The Leading Brand,” is
the album’s first cover and provides ample space
for Burgin, Andersen, and Kumar to stretch out.
The second cover, Robert Lockwood’s “I Got To
Find Me A Woman,” follows and introduces Gordon
and Wright to the proceedings, with Gordon
dueting with Burgin and Wright providing a
memorable solo. The Oregon-based Gordon figures
prominently in the next three songs, singing
lead on the smoldering blues “Late Night Date
Night,” “You Took The Bait” (featuring a
scorching solo from Wright), and backing Burgin
on “Daddy’s Got The Personal Touch.”
the instrumental shuffle, “Louisiana Walk,”
Burgin and Andersen both stand out with Wright
providing stellar backing. Musslewhite sits in
on harp for the speedy version of Jimmy Rogers’
“Blues Falling.” His harpwork is superb on
“California Blues” (Burgin’s account of his move
to the West Coast) and the slow blues, “When The
Bluesman Comes To Town.” On the instrumental
closer, “Jody’s Jazz,” Burgin references Jody
Williams’ riff from “Lucky Lou,” with Wright
contributing another smoking sax solo.
Live is a fantastic set from Johnny Burgin
that should be as pleasing to blues fans as it
was to the appreciative audience in attendance.
It’s a fine mix of Windy City and West Coast
blues that’s a lot of fun to hear.
--- Graham Clarke