Blues Bytes


July 2012

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Juke Joint Jonny
Pure and Simple
Blues Leaf Records

Juke Joint Jonny

Juke Joint Jonny's new CD, Pure and Simple (Blues Leaf Records), is one of those discs that just kind of sneaks up on you. The first time I listened to it I was ready to write it off as just another retro sounding blues album. By the second time around I realized that there might be something special going on here, and by the third time it went through the CD player I knew this one was going to be a favorite.

Jonny plays both 6 and 12 string guitars, and sings with a raspy voice that brings the right amount of grit to his material without coming across as too grating by the end of the album. Plus there's enough variety to the material to keep the listener guessing on every cut.

Opening the album is the mid tempo blues "Come on Up," one of 10 original compositions out of the dozen cuts here. Jonny is basically inviting everyone up to his place for a feast --- "chicken in the oven ... collard greens ... some candied yams and okra ... pan-fried cabbage, hush puppies and johnny cakes ..." Okay, he's got my attention and my appetite. This cut's got a real ol' timey feel with the accompaniment of Mike Rinta's tuba and Ken "Snakebite" Jacobs' clarinet.

Now that we're all well fed, Jonny takes us on down to New Orleans with "Joline," led by guest pianist Mitch Woods' fine Professor Longhair-style tickling of the ivories.

We then move on the Mississippi Delta with the haunting "Going to Mississippi," featuring Jonny's excellent slide guitar and regular band member Mike Stevens on the more politically correct named "jus harp." But here, Jonny admits that he's never been to Mississippi, has never picked cotton, etc. but says that he's learned all about the Delta through old records.

Jonny shifts gears on the next number, "Moma Lion," in which he turns into a blues shouter on this up tempo tune which again features nice piano work, this time from Steve Lucky. The next couple of cuts, the Jimmy Rogers cover "That's Allright" and Jonny's own "Dry Well Blues," both are straighter blues that showcase the artist's guitar skills.

We're then taken uptown for a slow, late night blues, "Unlucky in Love," with Lucky switching over to B3 organ. Jonny comes in midway through the song with a very tasty acoustic guitar solo. This is one of my favorites on what is already shaping up to be a wonderful CD!

I wasn't sure what to expect when I saw the title of the next song, "Edgewood (Funk-e-nuff-fo-u)." The song starts out sounding more like an acoustic guitar showpiece before the horn section comes in to turn it into a funky Memphis-style soul instrumental.

"Alameda Tickle" continues this road trip through the south, with Jonny featured here playing his guitar in a finger pickin' Piedmont style. Back to back instrumentals, but about as diverse as can be. Yeah, it works!

The up tempo "Juke Joint Boogie" follows, with nice slide playing from Jonny and good rhythmic drumming from Stevens. This cut segues nicely into the CD's second cover, a rendition of Muddy Waters' "Going Down to Main Street," which features great harmonica work from Sandy Mack and guitar accompaniment from another guest, Albert Castiglia.

Wrapping up Pure and Simple is the pleasant "Changes," with Jonny accompanying himself on guitar. It's obvious a lot of thought went into the order of songs on this CD; this cut brings it to a conclusion as aptly the first number pulled us into Jonny's blues party.

Pure and Simple exceeded my expectations, and I'm sure that most blues fans will agree --- it's a fine, fine album!

--- Bill Mitchell


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