Blues Bytes


June 2006

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John Long
Lost & Found
Delta Groove Productions

John LongIt’s inconceivable to me that a Bluesman such as John Long has gone unnoticed and unrecorded for almost 35 years. We’ve all read stories of similar situations --- Son House living in relative obscurity in Rochester, New York as an example. So we are all fortunate indeed that a rare demo of John’s landed in the hands of Al Blake, front man for the Hollywood Blue Flames, and even more fortunate that Al shared the demo with Randy Chortkoff of Delta Groove Productions who made immediate arrangements to record John. The resulting record, Lost & Found, serves as a poignant reminder of the very best of the country bluesmen who have come before us and John Long reminds us that the past is indeed not lost.

“Hokum Town” opens the record and finds John packing up his stuff to go. The woman he’s been sharing time with has lied to him, shown him the dark side of segregation and he just can’t abide by that….”I’m packing up momma, leavin on the bus outside!” “Pressure Cooker” finds chicken cooking on the stove in a pressure cooker and if it’s not watched properly, allowed to cool, the pot itself will blow. John’s woman is lazy….she’s watching soaps on TV as opposed to what’s cookin' and if she’s not careful….”there’ll be chicken all over the ceiling!”

Fred Kaplan lends his keyboard talents to the fray on “Hell Cat.” John is warning everyone in the neighborhood to keep their cats and dogs under watch….”there’s a hell cat coming down the mountains….low down and mean!” “Don’t blame the hell cat if you’re dog’s missing…..she decided to have a midnight snack!” Kaplan’s piano provides the perfect foil to the guitar and harmonica instrumentation of Long on this song about a devil woman. “Blues and Boogie Woogie” finds everyone out partying….”having a real good time!” “Don’t care what color you have on --- black, brown, blue or white --- you got to get out there and have a real good time!” Long’s guitar picking is clean and practiced, reflecting that talents of a master who has honed is craft in relative obscurity over the last 40 years.

“Foot Stompin’ Daddy” finds John in a celebratory mood. He’s feeling the lowdown blues and “got the beat in my blood all I want to do is stomp to the blues and boogie woogie….all night long!” “Stranglevine” finds Long in a ragtime mood with Kaplan pounding the keys to accompany Long’s harp. “I woke up early in the morning and the sun just wouldn’t was the lowdown blues they call it….mean old stranglevine!” With the stranglevine threatening his garden…”I’m going…going to be happy….not going to worry bout that stranglevine no more!”

The instrumental, “Johnny’s Jump” gives Long a chance to stretch his wings a little bit and serenade us with his harp and guitar playing. It provides a nice segue into the next cut on the record, “Mean Ole Rootin’ Ground Sloth.” “He got long shovel claws and odds are his teeth are sharp…don’t come out in the daylight…..come when the night is dark!” So be on your watch….”cause he’s howling and he’s prowlin…mean ole rootin’ ground sloth!”

“Greyhound Driver” finds John ready to leave town again. “Greyhound driver, tell me where you’re old dog bound!” He’s leaving Kansas City and the bus is his transportation of choice. “Whether you go to Chicago, New Orleans or Tennessee…any place they play the blues….that’s all right with me!” Things slow way down on “Healin’ Touch.” John has a woman who is blessed with the “healin’ touch”. “She touched my face and my hand….daddy, I healed the air, water and land….made me feel like a brand new man!”

Long closes his record with two versions of “Leavin St. Louis,” a solo version and a piano version with Fred Kaplan. As usual, a woman’s to blame for John leaving town. “When I leave St. Louis…leave my initials on the wall….can’t treat me no better woman….I won’t be back around your place at all!”

Considering the fact that Lost & Found is the first full length recording John Long has ever done, I find myself wondering what other gems still lay within the depths of his experiences. He’s had 40 years to perfect his craft and he is indeed, “an old soul.” Acoustic country blues like this just doesn’t happen anymore….for the most part there’s not many artists left who are as well versed in that period of time like John, and fewer still have the artistic ability to convey the best of a bye gone era like he does. We’re lucky that Al Blake discovered him, Randy Chortkoff believed in his talent and Delta Groove recorded him. In a day and age when we’re losing so many of our elder blues statesmen, it’s a refreshing breathe of air to discover a “new” old bluesman like John Long.

--- Kyle Deibler


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