John Lee Hooker, Jr. – Testify | Album Review

John Lee Hooker, Jr. – Testify

Steppin’ Stone Records

www.johnleehookerjr.com

11 tracks/47:20 Running Time

The Reverend John Lee Hooker, Jr. has jumped off the proverbial Pop/Gospel fence into total advocacy for Jesus with a Blues, Rhythm, and Funk motif.

From the opening strains in the first track of Mr. Musselwhite’s Mississippi Hill Country sounding harp (even though Charlie is from central Mississippi), John Lee Hooker, Jr.’s latest CD grabs your toes and sets them to tapping.

Incongruous as it may seem to many people, the Blues and the Gospel are closely intertwined. If one chooses to cast out the Gospel lyric in favor of the secular or even, vice-versa, the culture of the spirit is denied. Hooker, Jr. himself proclaims in the liner notes, that the visitation of the Holy Ghost was a most certain boon in the production of this project.

That said, any preachers reading this review openly, or naysayers on the down-low, who choose to listen to this offering may find it as powerful as an evangelistic 3 point sermon. For us mere irregular souls, each track on the album is like a chronologically perfect, potent autobiographical chapter in Hooker, Jr.’s life. They are all worthy of our ears. I’m intentionally not singling out the good tracks. (Well, if you insist, track 9, Praying, is my fav.)They are all superior. I will say this. Hooker, Jr. is a masterful songwriter, stylist and storyteller. He phrases like the preacher he is, yet one can sense that he is still capable of dropping the mic like it’s hot.

At various times the listener will observe Hooker Jr.’s muse workin’,  hear the man get his preach on and absorb his testimony of being delivered from alcohol, heroin, and cocaine. It is a thematic trip that emphasizes divorcing the devil and joining the army of the Lord. The Reverend even takes you on a post-revival limousine ride where the pervasive smell of alcohol inside precedes a harrowing police chase.

But wait! The music is also divine. First-class players are dotted throughout; producer Larry Batiste, whose chops are so great, he is the musical director of the Grammy Awards pre-telecast in Los Angeles. The afore-mentioned Charlie Musselwhite.  Guitarists Alvon Johnson and Wilton Rabb picking the very heck out of their axes. The list is long. Santana alum Bill Ortiz is  in the horn section along with sax man Doug Rowan and co-trumpeter Brad Catania. Ric “Mighty Bone” Feliciano is on trombone. The horns, of course, take the production to another level. Juan Escovedo from that famous family adds percussion. Michael Rogers, the longtime drummer for Reverend Hooker brought, in Hooker’s words, “a driving and profound feel to the groove.” The list of contributors, too long to list here, goes on and on.

Serious collectors should add this one to their library.

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