With nearly thirty years experience in the music business Junior Watson has much to bring. He has backed or recorded with many of the blues greats over the years. He was a founding member of Rod Piazza And The Mighty Flyers, and performed with them for ten years. He then went on to play with Canned Heat for another ten years. If he hasn’t paid his dues, then nobody has. His guitar playing is rooted in blues, swing, jump… while occasionally taking on a Television theme or throwing in some cartoonish riffing for fun. Whatever route his strings take, he his always in command of the controls. On this CD he keeps the sound pared down with a drums, bass, sax, harmonica and his frequent collaborator Fred Kaplan on piano. The retro sound obtained on this mostly instrumental release is refreshing.
The jumping old time blues of “Butter Top” finds him tossing in quick references to standards among his rapid guitar work. Fred Kaplan’s piano is low in the mix of the jumpin’ “Knee High Boogie”, but on most of the tunes he shares at least equal time with Junior’s guitar. Although it’s not listed in the liner notes, it seems Junior handles the three vocals gathered here. His pipes may take a little getting used to, but it all makes sense in the end. On “Stockyard Blues”, his first attempt, the lyrics get kind of monotonous. The rockabilly-meets-blues version of “Bo-Nanza” is a loads of fun. Here labeled “Beverly’s Hillbilly”, the theme is taken at a slow pace with a reggae backing. Bet ol’ Jed Clampett never saw this one a comin’…Wee Dawgies!
Fred Kaplan’s cocktail lounge piano fits like a glove along side Junior’s jazzy guitar on “Velvet Mood”. Twangy goodness is the stuff that “Happy Hoppy” is made of. The upbeat “Lucky Ticket” showcases Fred Kaplan’s light touch on the “keys”, a perfect match for the master. The title track finds Junior’ hands hoppin’ and skippin’ all over the strings. His vocal on “There’ll Be A Day” sounds like an amalgamation of Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo, to good effect. The lazy loping groove is complimented by Bharath Rajakumar’s harmonica playing.
The last two songs feature Gordon Beadle on sax. He and the band sound like a small big band on “Boppish”, full steam ahead. “The Barn Burner” is just that, mostly Gordon’s sax wailing into the air.
Junior sure knows how to have fun while plying his well-honed craft. There can always be little twists and turns found in his playing. Ever the professional, he affords a lot of soloing time to his cohorts. He has a knack for making the familiar sound new and interesting. When it comes to getting bluesy, swingy, jumpin’ or taking it slow, Junior has a firm handle on it. Treat yourself to the latest from “The Real McCoy”.