Friday, February 11, 2011

Review: 100 Years of Robert Johnson

Recent fan footage of a David "Honeyboy" Edwards performance.

If you scroll down the column to the right you'll see Kenny Wayne Shepherd's 10 Days Out: Blues From the Backroads on my top albums of 2007 list. I don't particularly care for the blues-rock guitarist. For that specific project, however, Shepherd featured veteran blues artists including Etta James and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. I loved it.

100 Years of Robert Johnson, officially released on March 1, is a very similar project. Under the moniker of "Big Head Blues Club," the project is essentially Big Head Todd and the Monsters backing a number of blues greats on material associated with Robert Johnson.

A discerning blindfolded listener might sense that a rock band is behind the project, but BHTM's jam band instincts are tastefully sublimated throughout the wonderful album. Almost all of it sounds fresh. Only Ruthie Foster's contribution to "Kind Hearted Woman" fails to thrill me. Charlie Musselwhite has rarely sounded better than on the eerie version of "Last Fair Deal Gone Down." B.B. King seems vital on a funky rendition of "Crossroads Blues." David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Hubert Sumlin also shine.

I've never been a huge Big Head Todd and the Monsters fan, but I intend to buy a ticket to see them perform these songs with Edwards and Sumlin in my town tomorrow. And don't be surprised if you spot this album listed over in the column to the right eleven months from now.

In anticipation of the recently announced Middle of the Map festival, I'll highlight one of the festival's performers each week. The April event provides my first opportunity to see Daniel Johnston outside of Texas. Here's a touching rendition of "Devil Town."

I'm not oblivious to the inherent cheesiness of the broadcast or its ludicrously inept history, but I'll watch Sunday's Grammy Awards with the same rabid attention football fans accord to the Super Bowl.

Kansas City Click: Death Angel headline Friday's bill at the Riot Room.

Kid Congo's Saturday gig at Crosstown Station will probably begin after the Big Head Blues Club show at the Uptown Theater concludes.

Joyce DiDonato sings Sunday at the Folly Theater.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)


Rick in PV said...

Is Daniel Johnston really all that? Raveonettes were really good at Scion Garage Fest in October ...

Happy In Bag said...

D.J. certainly isn't for everyone. I've always been fascinated by both the man and his music, yet I rarely push him on others.

I missed the Scion thing, unfortunately. I did catch the Raveonettes outside the Beaumont in 2009. Disappointing.