The fledgling Fedora label seems to specialize in recording artists who have been overlooked by the major blues labels. Like many of his fellow labelmates, Malone's style is a pleasant mix of downhome blues with a heavy urban influence. While his roots are in the deep south, Malone has lived much of his life in the more densely populated Northern California region. He's a wonderful singer, influenced by both Louis Jordan and John Lee Hooker, and frequently breaks into scat singing during his songs.
The opening number, "It's A Shame," is a remake his biggest hit for Galaxy Records in 1972, a song which nearly took Malone to bigger and better things. The Caribbean-flavored original was subsequently covered by reggae superstar Toots Hibbert. This version is a catchy, spirited number, with more of an urban funk groove. Malone follows with the rawer country blues of the title cut, a Junior Wells original, demonstrating the John Lee Hooker influence.
"Good Lookin' Woman" is a spirited uptempo tune with a nice rhythmic beat. Malone does some of his best scatting here.
A highlight of See Me Early In The Morning is Malone's slow blues cover of Memphis Slim's "Mother Earth." This version is not as dirge-like as the original, and includes a great raw guitar solo from Malone.
The deepest blues moments on this CD come on the funky, hypnotic instrumental "Smoked Oysters." Nicely contrasting Malone's sparser Louisiana-style guitar licks are second guitarist Clarence Walker thick reverb.
Malone has an uncanny ability to take another artist's song and mold it into his own unique style. Muddy Waters' "Walkin' Thru The Park" is given a faster, New Orleans rhumba beat through the great percussion work of drummer Chris Millar, while Malone adds more scat singing and raw guitar chords.
J.J. Malone is a blues artist who deserves far more recognition than he's received in his career. You'll undoubtedly agree after listening to See Me Early In The Morning.
--- Bill Mitchell
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