FEATURED ARTIST / S
|James 'Steady Roll' Johnson|
Lonnie Johnson, vocal, guitar. Violin, kazoo, harmonium
With contributions by James Johnson, violin, piano; James "Steady Roll" Johnson, vocal; John Arnold, piano; De Loise Searcy, piano; Victoria Spivey, vocal.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Blues Guitar.
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Abridged from this CDs booklet notes.
In 1925, Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson won a talent contest sponsored by Okeh, and acquired a seven year contract with them as a result. Male singers playing guitar were about to make the breakthrough on race records; Blind Lemon Jefferson was beginning to record about the same time as Lonnie. Nevertheless, Johnson seems to have been anxious to show his versatility on these first dates; on this CD, he plays violin on more numbers than he does guitar, as well as switching to piano, banjo and harmonium. His contract with Okeh required him to work as a staff musician as well as a name artist, and he may have wanted to impress the company with his range. He also seems to have wished to promote brother James, who was at all Lonnie's sessions until April 1927, also making some recordings of his own. James, like Lonnie, was a multi-instrumentalist, playing violin, banjo, guitar and piano. "He was better than me," Lonnie remembered proudly in 1960, and certainly they blended admirably together, whether playing violin and guitar, violin and banjo, two guitars, or even two fiddles, as on Very Lonesome Blues.
As an accomplished professional, Lonnie didn't limit himself to blues; the irresistible, if enigmatically named Nile Of Genago is a waltz for two guitars, straight from the 19th Century parlour tradition. From the same session, the crazily syncopated Johnson Trio Stomp crosses hillbilly music with silent movie piano. Nevertheless, from the first Lonnie Johnson made his mark as a blues singer, and one with an impeccably poised, elegant guitar style, the melody tripping along over rich chords in support of his clear, bittersweet vocals.
Already a master musician, Lonnie Johnson was also a lyricist of considerable originality, and one with decided views on the complexities of human affairs. Often, he was misogynistic: "To find a good woman, is like finding a dime in a bed of sand... Men, love will make you drink and gamble, and stay out all night long." "Ah, you don't see into these blues like me; I can see further into the blues, than a fish can in the deep blue sea", he proclaimed, and his appeal to his audience seems to have derived as much from his ability to analyse his and their concerns, and write coherent responses, delivered with conviction and sincerity, as from his instrumental proficiency.