Jazz Cafe Thursday 25th May 2006
quiet Jazz Café for this solo performance by J.H. Jr, maybe
reflecting the £25 ticket price being a bit steep for just
a chap on his own with guitar and harp-in-a-rack. However once we're
in and John's sorted out his upside down harmonica false start the
price seems fair enough as he launches into into things with great
verve and really rocks it.
He hits the guitar hard and the harp harder and, this being the
first time I've seen him live, I'm really struck by the passion
of his playing. It's extraordinarily loose and he's not in the least
afraid to trip himself up - although he rarely does. His playing
though is 'sweet' - he pulls the beauty of to the songs - and even
when he's hitting things hard it's still got a purity. It's not
rough, it's pretty, but it manages to avoid being bland.
A long time associate of Tom Waits, we get an extraordinary version
of 'Get Behind The Mule' - for my money better than Waits, and of
course here is a man not noted for writing his own material. We
get an ethereal 'One Kind Favour' and a deeply moving 'It Hurts
Me Too' amongst others. He's doing other peoples songs songs, but
he's doing them in a way that makes them real, in some senses hearing
these songs played this well live for the first time connects deeper
than the scratchy records that I've been listening to for years.
"I've been playing this song so long... It's mine!" he's
says with a smile at one point.
been around a bit too, and we get plenty of anecdotes - tracking
down Robert Johnson tracks round his dads house, hanging with Dylan,
driving Big Joe Turner around Chicago. Yes, he's name dropping but
he does it with some wit and in a self deprecating style that makes
it not "look at how cool I am", but more "here's
an interesting thing that I happened to see..." and much of
it is plenty interesting. Apparently Howlin' Wolf idolised Jimmy
Rogers - The Yodeling Brakeman country star (not the Chicago blues
guitar legend) and he tried to emulate him, but it just came out
as a howl!
We even got a story about meeting G-Love who, once he mentioned
it, I realised owes more than a little to John with his paying.
Apparently he's producing John's upcoming album, which I for one
am certainly looking forward to. Hammond and G-love - together at
We've got an interview with John here
and a review of his most recent CD here
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