Robert Jr. Lockwood
This is Lockwood's first domestic release since 2000, and the exquisite live album is well worth the wait. The performance at Phoenix's Rhythm Room sees the 89-year-old elder statesman of the blues draw upon six decades of bluesmanship.
This masterful performance on 12-string electric guitar comes to us from the only living performer to have learned the craft from Robert Johnson, his stepfather. (Lockwood performs four of Johnson's songs here, including "Sweet Home Chicago".) Lockwood spent the '30s and beyond gigging with Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin' Wolf and became a noted Chess session guitarist. Lockwood continued to innovate and improve his clear, crystalline style through the '70s, resulting here in a gifted performer exhibiting emotion and soul honed to a sharp edge with precision and technical ability shining with the glint of a jazz patina.
The dozen songs here cover material by Mance
Lipscomb, Leroy Carr, Roosevelt Sykes and more. Lockwood never before
recorded many of the songs here, or never recorded them as a solo
Lockwood initiates the show with “Meet Me In
The Bottom,” by the renaissance man of the blues, scholar songster Mance
Lipscomb. However, the shining and smiling delivery takes from the lows to
the lofty heights where Lockwood stands arm-to-shoulders with the smiling
jester of the blues, Roosevelt Sykes (“Feel Like Blowin’ My Horn”).
Another pianist, prolific songwriter Leroy Carr, comes up next with the
rollicking “Mean Mistreater Mama.”
Keeping things interesting, Lockwood follows with “Exactly Like You,” the pop gem from the songwriting team of Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields. All of the focus on pianists’ songs seems to strike at the heart of the Lockwood style: melody over rhythm.
After this brief pop interlude and the
addition of a comical, self-deprecating coda, Lockwood launches into a
trio of Robert Johnson songs: “Love in Vain,” “From Four Until Late,” and
“Ramblin’ on my Mind.”
In a final farewell speech, Lockwood sharply and suddenly asks the audience for something – money? Applause? Regardless, it is the saddest note on this golden example of the craft of solo blues from a master of the art.
--- Tom Schulte
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