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As far as singing goes, I wanted to do something new and have a style that wasn't too common. I was inspired by the records of Jimmie Rodgers, a white singer of that time. He was called the 'yodeling singer' because he would sing some parts in a head voice, like the Swiss yodelers. I took that idea and adapted it to my own abilities. I couln't do no yodelin' so I turned to howlin'. And it's done me just fine - Howlin' Wolf

Author Topic: "The Gentle Side of Larry Johnson"--Stella Records STCD006  (Read 321 times)

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Offline Johnm

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"The Gentle Side of Larry Johnson"--Stella Records STCD006
« on: December 07, 2018, 09:08:25 AM »
"The Gentle Side of Larry Johnson"--PROGRAM:  1) Pioneer Blues 2) Charley Stone 3) Take This Hammer 4) Hang Your Head Over 5) Pick A Bale of Cotton 6) Keep Your Home Fire Burning 7) Give Me Back My Glory 8 ) I Got The Blues 9) Mean Ol' Frisco 10) That's Alright Mama 11) Medley: Blues in E, Blues Before Sunrise 12) I Can't Afford To Lose My Gal 13) Old Time Religion

It seems that in the years since he passed away, more and more people are coming to the realization of what a special musician Larry Johnson was, and how remarkable his music was.  This CD was recorded live at the Stamford Guitar Festival in England, when Larry performed there in 1999.  Because it is a UK release on a smaller label, I believe a lot of people, including many of Larry's fans, are not even aware of its existence.  If that is true, it's a shame, because it's a very strong CD, with aspects of Larry, both as a musician and as a man, that come through in ways that none of his studio recordings capture.  I'm glad Michael Roach chose to record Larry in concert for that reason.

The recording includes lots of Larry's spoken intros to his songs, and it's great to hear the way he relates the music he plays to his life experiences.  He's very warm and engaging and you can tell he really appreciates the wild applause and whoops and hollers his performance elicits from the audience.  Over the course of the week-end, he mostly accompanied himself on a lightly amplified electric guitar, but he also sounds as though he was playing a 12-string on a couple of numbers.  His singing is superlative throughout the program, strong and freely phrased in his rich baritone voice; it's much the strongest singing by Larry I've heard on recordings.  His guitar playing, in the main, does not show the non-stop activity and complexity of his playing on his Blue Goose album, "Fast and Funky", but I believe that is because his own emphasis has shifted from his playing to his singing, and he is using the guitar, first and foremost, in support of his singing.  His playing throughout the program shows that he was still capable of playing that earlier Larry Johnson style when the spirit moved him to do so.

What of the program?  "Pioneer Blues" is a ruminative instrumental in G, recalling at first John Hurt's "Spike Driver Blues", but then moving into a lot of areas that were Larry's own.  "Charley Stone" had evolved since he recorded it on "Fast and Funky" into a scat singing showpiece, with some instrumental fireworks, too.  I particularly enjoy the "folk song" medley of "Take This Hammer", "Hang Your Head Over" (otherwise known as "Down In The Valley" or "Birmingham Jail") and "Pick A Bale of Cotton".  "Keep Your Home Fire Burning" is a very strong Larry Johnson original and a rarity, an East Coast one-chord blues that hearkens back to Larry's early days of learning guitar.  "Give Me Back My Glory" is done as a tribute to Rev. Gary Davis.  "I Got The Blues" is Larry's version of "St. Louis Blues", and features some nifty picking in C.  "Mean Ol' Frisco" and "That's Alright Mama" are both played out of A, with Larry backing himself with an aggressive boom-chang accompaniment for "Mean Ol' Frisco".  "Blues In E" is a sort of long, improvisatory intro to Leroy Carr's "Blues Before Sunrise", and it shows the extent to which Larry was a true solo player like his models, rather than an ensemble musician.  Without sounding at all like Lightnin' Hopkins or John Lee Hooker, he nonetheless adheres to their musical formula of playing the chord change only if and when he felt the time had come to do it.  "I Can't Afford To Lose My Gal" is an up-tempo original, and Larry closes the program with a sing-along rendition of (Give Me That) "Old Time Religion".

I've been listening to the CD pretty much non-stop for the past couple of weeks, and for me, at least, it improves with repetition, knowing the spoken intros to the songs, Larry's solo moves and the rest of it.  If you are a fan of Larry's music, I don't think you want to be without this CD--it's a real winner.  If you wish to order it, you can contact Stella Records at:  info@stellarecords.net .

All best,
Johnm     
« Last Edit: January 06, 2019, 09:55:05 PM by Johnm »

Offline Stuart

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Re: "The Gentle Side of Larry Johnson"--Stella Records STCD006
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2018, 12:45:46 PM »
Thank you, John. I went straight to the Stella Records page and placed my order. There are other interesting titles available as well:

http://www.stellarecords.net/buy-music.html

Offline Stuart

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Re: "The Gentle Side of Larry Johnson"--Stella Records STCD006
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2018, 08:14:24 AM »
It arrived in the mail yesterday. Thoroughly enjoyable--100% of that "Johnson sound," as Larry would say. --Maybe 110%

Thanks again for the detailed post and the recommendation.

Offline Johnm

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Re: "The Gentle Side of Larry Johnson"--Stella Records STCD006
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2018, 08:39:43 AM »
Hi Stuart,
I'm glad to hear the CD arrived okay and particularly glad to hear that you're enjoying it and feel like I represented it accurately in the review.  Seriously folks, this CD is really worth purchasing!
All best,
Johnm

Offline RobBob

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Re: "The Gentle Side of Larry Johnson"--Stella Records STCD006
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2018, 06:53:05 PM »
Been a big fan of Larry's music since I found the old Blue Goose LP in the base exchange while in the USAF almost 50 years ago.  Thanks for the heads up.

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