13 tracks; 64 minutes
Thessex Johns chose an interesting stage name in Johnny Drummer as drums is one of the instruments he does not play! However, with some 50 years in the business he does lead a big band, writes all the material, sings, plays harp and organ – not a bad list of accomplishments. This is Johnny’s fourth Earwig CD and it features a fine array of Chicago sidemen: Anthony Palmer on lead guitar, Sir Walter Scott on rhythm guitar, Kenny Hampton on bass, Jeremiah Thomas and Terrence Williams on drums, Ronnie Hicks on keys, Rodney ‘Hot Rod’ Brown on sax and Kenny Anderson on trumpet.
The overall sound is funky, urban blues with lyrics which could cause offence if the listener was particularly sensitive. However, most blues fans are quite at home with tales of infidelity, lust and sexual boasting, so will feel right at home here! An example of each of the above will give a flavour of the material. “Star 69” is the dialling code to retrieve the previously dialled phone number. Here Johnny decides to use the code having overheard his lady on the phone, only to discover that she is planning to cheat on him! Johnny reminds her to clear the line in future as the horns push the melody along and Anthony takes a fine solo. Opening track “Is It Love Or Is It Lust?” gives us a clear message about Johnny’s thinking about this lady – he simply cannot decide whether he’s in love or just overtaken by desire. The music here is funky, the horns accentuating the core riff and ‘Hotrod’ taking a short but effective solo on tenor. When it comes to sexual boasting “One Size Fit All” is classic stuff: short or tall, petite or full figure, Johnny has “what you need”.
Elsewhere Johnny shows a good sense of humour on the comic “Bit Her In The Butt” in which an unfortunate young lady struggles to get past a dog to enter a store, with the inevitable consequence of the song title! Taking a ‘standard’ blues analogy, “Another Rooster Is Pecking My Hen” also demonstrates some bawdy humour and the title track introduces us to a girl who sleeps “with a straight razor under your pillow”. Johnny is also fiercely protective of the things he holds most dear, as he explains in “My Woman, My Money, My Whiskey”. He can also be more serious though, as on “Make You Happy”, a ballad with some hints of reggae in the rhythm guitar work, in which he states “I’m gonna be good to you, give you the best time you’ve ever had”. In the slow blues “Ain’t No Secret In A Small Town” Johnny’s words warn of the wagging tongues if you put a foot off the right path and in “Don’t Call Me Trash” (possibly the standout track on the album) he sings of the people who don’t have a lot of money or fall into financial problems: “I may not have cash to stash, because I live in a trailer, don’t call me trash”.
With the horns doing a superb job on most of the tracks here this is a solid CD, well recorded and produced, which gives us a flavour of what Johnny’s regular shows in Chicago must be like – an entertaining evening of blues with a sense of humour.