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John Lee Hooker, Jr. - All Hooked Up

Steppin’ Stone Records

12 songs; 48:19 minutes

Styles: Traditional Blues, Jazz-Influenced Blues, R&B

What’s it like to be the son of one of the most famous bluesmen of all time? Most fans can only dream (or shudder), but John Lee Hooker, Jr. knows. He’s faced trials the rest of us can merely imagine, but now he’s “All Hooked Up”! The title of his fifth album, released in September of this year, refers to having a connection with the Lord instead of his previous illegal-substance suppliers. He’s made an astonishing return, winning 2004’s “Comeback Artist of the Year” award from the San Francisco Bay Area Blues Society, and “Outstanding Blues Album of the Year” from the California Music Awards for 2004’s “Blues with a Vengeance.” To top it off, John Lee Hooker, Jr. became an ‘04 Grammy nominee!

Eight years later, he’s currently touring in the U.S., Europe, and around the globe. Here, JLH Jr. offers twelve original and memorable blues selections. They range from bouncy (“I Surrender”) to belligerent (“You Know That’s Right”) to baffling (“It Must Be the Meds”). This particular trio of tunes is terrific:

Track 04: “I Surrender”--The “Cleanup Woman” herself, Betty Wright, guest-stars as a vocalist on this delightful duet with JLH, Jr. In it, they warmly admit to one another that “you’ve captured me--make me your prisoner….” Jeanie Tracy, Sakai, and co-lyricist Larry Batiste plead “Lock me up!” in beautiful background harmony on the chorus. The horn section is sensationally soulful, with Ric ‘Mighty Bone’ Feliciano on trombone, Tom Poole on trumpet, and Doug Rowan on sax. “Only a fool would want to be free” of true love, or this song!

Track 05: “Hard Times”--Not only is the fifth track a chilling reminder of today’s economy, but a revealing glimpse into a new thief’s mind: “There’s something about being hungry that erases all the fear. I stole two packs of bologna and a Three Musketeers (chocolate bar)….” Dave Barrette’s mournful harmonica and Will ‘Roc’ Griffin’s ominous-sounding organ are especially moving. “Hard Times” is definitely this album’s best traditional blues ballad.

Track 11: “Pay the Rent”--The antithesis of the desperate narrator in “Hard Times” appears in this jazz-influenced gem--a glib, silver-tongued landlord who, one might imagine, also wears an oily smile as he tells his tenants: “Remember how comfy this place is--you’re out of the dump where you used to live. So, pay your rent!” John Garcia and Jeffrey Horan play smooth guitar with teasing, tickling notes. “Caveat emptor,” indeed.

Included with this CD is a bonus DVD, featuring a fabulously-detailed animated film noir of John Lee Hooker Jr.’s hit “Dear John,” produced by JLH and Callicore. He’ll have blues fans “All Hooked Up” with fantastic music for the start of the holidays!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 33 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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