FEATURED ARTIST / S
Lonnie Johnson, vocal, guitar, piano.
With contributions by Fred Longshaw piano.
Genres: Blues guitar.
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
From this CDs booklet notes.
By 1931, record sales were declining catastrophically under the impact of the Depression, but Okeh, who had the Mississippi Sheiks and Bo Carter, actually put out more race records in 1931 than they had in 1930. They also had Lonnie Johnson, whose proven sales potential encouraged them to bring him in for six recording sessions in 1931 and even for four in 1932.
Johnson's lyrics remained misogynistic; on Low Down St. Louis Blues, he catalogued the allegedly violent ways of the women of his former hometown, where his wife Mary was still living and Beautiful But Dumb added to his catalogue of generalised complaints. The intriguing title From A Wash Woman On Up conceals the fitting of a new lyric to his "jelly roll" tune, while Hell Is A Name For All Sinners holds out a melodramatic warning of the life to come, delivered with gloomy relish, and the moral advice on Home Wreckers Blues is more specific.
As if to repay Okeh's confidence, Johnson was playing guitar better than ever, inserting dazzling runs made up of chromatic chords, which do something to alleviate the overstretched metaphor of Best Jockey In Town. On Sleepy Water Blues and Uncle Ned, Don't Use Your Head, however, his playing simply makes two glorious performances even better. Sleepy Water Blues, beautifully sung, is another in Lonnie's series of songs about "dear old Southland"; the lyrics may boggle the mind today, but as discussed in the notes to DOCD-5068, there were good reasons why this sort of song should have appealed to blacks facing economic hardship in the North. "Uncle Ned" is a rewrite of Sam Theard's 1929 hit "You Rascal You"; shortly, Lonnie was to reconstruct Cab Calloway's "Minnie The Moocher" into Winnie The Wailer. On Cat You Been Messin' Around, Lonnie rejects another (and evidently white) man's child, which his woman is trying to foist onto him, with some of Calloway's fantastical exaggeration, though without a trace of humour to lighten his delivery of the lyrics. More cheerful is She's Dangerous With That Thing, its strutting rhythms perfectly attuned to the inconsequential words. He was still lecturing his audience, though, attacking "pimps and gigolos", and "no-good women" as well, on Men Get Wise To Yourself. On Sam, You're Just A Rat, Johnson played piano on record for the last time until 1960, fittingly producing one of his best efforts on that instrument. The eight bar There Is No Justice finds Lonnie's playing sounding somewhat like Big Bill Broonzy's, but by the time of his last session for Okeh, on 12th August 1932, he was back to sounding like his unmistakable self.