King Of A Mighty Good Time
R.J.'s back in town. Matter of fact that is the title of one of his originals on this new disc, equipped with about a 50/50 mix his own and covers that he makes his own, much in the same way that he's been doing since blasting his way out of the Minnesota blues scene a couple of decades ago. Also, much in the same way as he has done on most of his previous releases, he taps into the harmonica styles of the Walters, the Sonny Boys, George Smith and even Mojo Buford (who he has waxed recordings with). He never slavishly imitates them, but hints at what they are known for and incorporates it within the context of the song--that may or may not be associated with that artist. He also covers the many different flavors of the blues here to add to the variety of the grooves. This is kind of a stock in trade for him also. The end result is another premium release by one of the best in the business--I don't know why one of the bigger labels haven't jump on him yet. I'm not familiar with Challis Records, but if they are backing R.J., I'm going to have to find out more about 'em.
R.J. has Chris "The Kid" Andersen back, filling the guitar chair and co-producing; a job he fulfilled on R.J.'s last outing, He Came To Play. Kid's one of those Scandinavian cats that somehow fell for this stuff like I did, but he's a master at playing it and he's way younger too. He's one of those hired gun California guys now and R.J. has him bending some mighty fine strings such as the solo that smokes on Sonny Boy Williamson II's I Can't Do Without You; getting spunky, staccato stabbing notes on Mojo Buford's Watchdog and picking a little C&W loping groove on a tune called Greyhound to which R.J. applies a "Got My Mojo Working" riffing theme. Of course, he lays down much more tasty stuff than this since his work is present on 11 of the 13 cuts. He even plays an sitar on a ethereal sounding R.J. original Too Little Love (Too Much Religion) with it's worldly messaging like, "Ashes to ashes/Dust to dust/We all have to find someone/That we can trust". I've heard Kid's work before on release's that I can't recall off-hand and I think that he has one of his own out there and I'm pretty sure that he is touring with Charlie Musselwhite, so we'll be hearing from him for awhile. He exemplifies the quality of the West Coast musicians that R.J. met up with in his move there from the Midwest. Not sure what drove Mischo to pull up stakes and move to his current residence in Arkansas.
'm partial to what R.J. does with that nasty ol', down in the alley, gut bucket, blow your face off, electrified Chicago blues. Sorry, but he just gets such a fat tone with his harmonica when he aims it in that direction and he just makes it so deep. Know what I mean. He plays the variety card, though, and that's alright because I learned a looonnnggg time ago that not everyone thinks like me, so he provides a little something for everyone. He shows off his substantial acoustic chops on the original opener called Cheap Wine which is basically about getting a buzz on, shortly after sunrise. His tone here, without amplification, explains why his tone with amplification is so fat and juicy. The tune has a ragged, but right feel to it and it introduced me to the other guitarist in the mix, Jon Lawton (apparently a cohort from Minneapolis). Most of what he brings to the show is in the form of acoustic guitar and he sets the tone for this first number with his rhythmic chords. His resonator resonates throughout the aforementioned, Too Little Love (Too Much Religion) and goes a long way with assisting with the moody vibe of the song.
R.J. jumps off into rough stuff with both feet on the second cut with the original instrumental, Joint!. He quotes Little Walter slightly, more with phrasing and a little reverb than actual licks, and he throws in a Big Walter squawk a time or two. It's a driving bassless tune that chugs along and highlights what R.J. does best. He keeps that same deep blues vibe going on a cover of Crawlin' Kingsnake and Mojo's Watchdog, which is the highlight of the Chi-town amped up blues that he burns tone upon. His riffs wear out the low note bends and he slaps the devil out of his octave runs. Mighty fine. Have to mention Bob Welch here, who adds a slick guitar solo on the Buford track, but is in his element tickling the ivories (which R.J. reminds us that he also did on one of his finest releases-West Wind Blowing). Welch livens up Otis Spann's Who's Out There, which also has the Kid swinging some of his best; the Sonny Boy Williamson II cut, which has R.J. sucking the low notes out of the harp and the original Good Bad Co.(Don't Worry), on which Mischo shows off his high end harp skills. Welch also drives another original Give It Up with a pre-war ensemble jangle and acoustic chromatic harp supplied by R.J. as a surprising asset to the tune.
Mischo's reminder that RJ's Back In Town is simply to reinforce that he's never left, that this is what he does and he pulls out all the harmonica stops that he can invent with the jumping, bumping, rollicking party number. The original title tune King Of A Mighty Good Time has Sonny Boy Williamson I written all over it, in terms not only in the acoustic harp mastery, but also in the lyrics and vocal delivery that R.J. lays on us. Go ahead and get it at the Blue Beat Music and you won't regret hangin out with the King of a Mighty Good Time. Anyway--