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Big Head Blues Club "100 Years Of Robert Johnson"
He was born Robert Leroy Johnson on May 8, 1911 and died at the age of 27 on August 16, 1938, yet despite his relatively short life, he still managed to leave a musical legacy that has placed him at the very top of many peoples lists, as the greatest blues artist whom ever lived. Robert Johnson did not have a long recording career, actually all his 29 recordings were done over a 2 year period, 1936 - 1937, yet his music and the mystique that was his life, is an inherent part of any true blues artist nowadays, as in the past.
Any doubt as to Johnson's legacy is quickly extinguished once you are aware of the accolades which have been heaped on him throughout the years. From 2 Grammy's to being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame to having his Complete Recording "included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2003". Plenty of accolades for any artist, but it does not stop there and includes 4 songs inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Blues Foundation Award in 1991 in the category of Vintage or Reissue Album, and Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Blues Hall of Fame Inductions, have certainly made Robert Johnson a Legend among Legends and now to mark the 100th year since his birth, the Big Head Blues Club, along with some Living Blues Legends, have put together a more than worthy Robert Johnson Tribute Album.
The Big Head Blues Club is considered to be the "bluesier alter-egos" of the band Big Head Todd and the Monsters, a band that has garnered a fair amount of success over the last 20+ years, with their own brand of blues mixed in with pop and rock. For "100 Years Of Robert Johnson", the The Big Head Blues Club also brought in a amazing lineup of guest artists which included BB King, Hubert Sumlin, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Charlie Musselwhite, Ruthie Foster, Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, many of which are already living legends, especially B.B. King and David "Honeyboy" Edwards. In fact, "Honeyboy is one of the last living links to Robert Johnson, and one of the last original acoustic Delta blues players." The album was recorded over a 5 day period at the famous Ardent Studios which is located in Memphis and was produced by Grammy winning Producer, Chris Goldsmith. "100 Years Of Robert Johnson" was officially released March 1, 2011, amid a lot of hype including a tour that wrapped up March 8, 2011, as prelude to the release of the album.
"100 Years Of Robert Johnson" consists of 10 tracks, which were a collection of Big Head Todd's (Todd Park Mohr) favorite Robert Johnson songs. Of the 10 tracks, 3 have been inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, “Sweet Home Chicago” (1936), “Cross Road Blues” (1936), and “Love in Vain” (1937). The one that was not chosen for this album was “Hellhound on My Trail” (1937).
There have of course been a cascade of interpretations of Robert Johnson's music, from the sublime to the ridiculous, over the years, and no less then a half dozen tribute albums, and as time goes by there will no doubt be many more. Big Head Blues Club "100 Years Of Robert Johnson" may be one of the better ones to have come along in a while and for a few good reasons, first and foremost being the exceptional musicians on this album.
A song like a painting is open to many individual interpretations, some of which do justice to the work of art, and some which miss the point entirely. "100 Years Of Robert Johnson" more than does justice to the work of Robert Johnson. The songs were done in such a way that the focus was not so much on the performer, but on the original artist, which is achieved by the performers only slightly stepping into each of Johnson's masterful works. Sure you get it that B.B. King is playing or Charlie Musselwhite is playing, but in a way that you would of expected Robert Johnson to have played it.
I was really glad to see two of my favorites on this album, "Come On In My Kitchen", which is a more than appropriate opening to the album and "Sweet Home Chicago" which is a brilliant end to the album. "Sweet Home Chicago" has of course been sung forever and it is darn near impossible to see a blues band that does not include it in it's live shows. The musicians for "Sweet Home Chicago" could not have been better picked and were David "Honeyboy" Edwards (Guitar/Vocals) and Charlie Musselwhite (Harmonica). I have never heard "Sweet Home Chicago" performed that raw and that pure and it immediately took be back to the time of Robert Johnson, when he sang "on street corners, in juke joints, and at Saturday night dances ".
A far as modern day tribute albums go, which are devoted to a past Blues Legend, Big Head Blues Club "100 Years Of Robert Johnson", must be considered one of the more truer and authentic albums to pay tribute to Johnson in quite a while. Big Head Todd (Todd Park Mohr) has managed to recreate his love and respect for Robert Johnson's music in a manner more than befitting the stature of Johnson's legendary status. Along with the rest of his band and the amazing lineup of guest artists, Big Head Todd (Todd Park Mohr) has put together an album, that I am sure even Robert Johnson would have been proud of.
As far as Tribute albums are concerned, Big Head Blues Club "100 Years Of Robert Johnson" is certainly worthy of a 5***** rating from me. Each year see's it fair share of Tribute Albums and so far, for 2011, this is one of the better ones.
Highly Recommended and Thoroughly Enjoyed...
Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)
1. Come On In My Kitchen
2. Ramblin On My Mind
3. When You Got A Good Friend
4. Cross Road Blues
5. Preachin Blues
6. Kind Hearted Woman
7. If I Had Posession Over Judgement Day
8. Last Fair Deal Gone Done
9. All My Love Is Love In Vain
10. Sweet Home Chicago
Listen To Samples Here...