Keith Johnson – Come To Mississippi
Twice As Nice Entertainment
Looking quite dapper in a light-colored suit and a bow tie, the smile on guitarist Keith Johnson’s face on the cover expresses his excitement over his debut recording. The twenty-five year old blues man handles the lead vocals, lead & slide guitar, and harmonica in addition to serving as the Executive producer. Backing musicians include Travis Calvin and Caleb Armstrong on rhythm guitar, Chris Parks on bass, Charles Ross on keyboards, and George Mumford on drums & percussion.
Johnson wastes no time in describing his introduction to the music on ”The Blues Chose Me,” his easy-on-the-ears vocal style combining with his smooth guitar work for a strong opener. “Fire” picks up the tempo as the singer uses the flames as a metaphor for his lovemaking abilities. The mood is far more somber on “Best I Ever Had,” chronicling the end of a bad relationship. The distorted slide guitar and harmonica parts serve as distractions rather than enhancements. The following cut, “Forgive Me Baby,” gives Johnson space to plead his case over sympathetic instrumental backing, making this slow blues one of the album’s gems.
Several tracks have a contemporary sheen, with “Juke Joint Blues” driven by a popping bass line that should fill the dance floor at live shows, while the title cut is the requisite “travel” song, this time extolling Mississippi as the home of the blues, with multiple references to legendary artists. “Taxi” is a funky shuffle with Johnson taking a different approach to the object of his affections, then offers smooth, energetic encouragement on “Let’s Dance,” punctuate by melodic guitar fills.
On “Gamblin’ Man,” Johnson is at his best on a slow blues tune that focuses on the bad luck in his love life. Ross adds some swirling electronic keyboard renderings. A cover of Willie Dixon’s “Same Thing” is strong vocally while “Another Wish” falls in the filler category with weak lyrics and a rhythm that seems to be a bit out of sync. For the final track, “3 O’Clock,” Johnson slips into the southern soul sound favored by artists like Johnny Rawls. His pleading voice soars over a repetitive keyboard cluster that is the heart of the arrangement.
While it might be a bit early for Johnson to refer to himself as the “Prince of the Delta Blues,” as stated on the cover of the disc, he certainly shows plenty of promise throughout his initial effort. But then again, he is the great nephew of Muddy Waters. Keeping the instrumental solos short and sweet, Johnson scores in the vocal and songwriting categories. A contemporary blues release that is grounded in the traditions, from an artist who warrants attention now, and in his future endeavors.