Run Time: 40:45
If you want a pure, traditionalist’s
traditionalist; D. Johnson is it. This guy is a student and he’s
very well educated in the blues tradition of the 1930’s Pre-War
acoustic blues. Every little nuance you’d expect; from the recording
process to the guitar work to the vocals are all present in his
release Doney Blues.
Sporting covers from the pillars of the era
Robert Johnson and Son House as well as a rare Lightnin’ Hopkins
cover, Johnson shows us in these modern times just how it was done
and how it should be done to call up the masters. The oft-covered
Johnson tuens of “Crossroads” and “Kind Hearted Woman” don’t sound
tired or over-abused or watered down. The only thing holding it back
is probably accessibility. Those who don’t appreciate this style of
blues probably won’t like the record, but that’s alright. Johnson is
uncompromising, too. He refuses to veer left or veer away from his
influences. His no-water added approach to these timeless songs is
refreshing and amazing to hear from a guy as far removed from the
Delta as possible. He’s from California!
Johnson’s true fire burns when he rips into Son
House’s catalog, sporting House’s whiskey-drenched vocal rage in
songs like the oft-covered “Death Letter” and “Pony Blues,” with the
latter taking you on the gallop of the horse in rhythm.
Johnson doesn’t water anything down. All the
tracks are recorded live with little to no accompaniment but the
hard wood floor he stomps on for the beat. The accompaniment is
texture for the most part. On songs like R.J’s “They’re Red Hot” and
the D. Johnson penned (one of only two self-written works on the CD,
the other being “Doney Blues”) “That’s Not Right” the trombone adds
the vaudevillian side of the blues that most refuse to or can’t
If you’re looking for something to spin you off in a new direction,
don’t come here. D. Johnson is going to take you back and show you
how it used to be done and in some circles, how it still should be
done. If you’re a lover of the masters, here’s a take on them from
today’s modern times. It shows just why and how the artists from
yesterday are still reticent in song today, and how when someone
catches the blues bug that it gets infectious and never lets you go.
Just ask D. Johnson. I’m sure he’ll show and tell you.
Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.