Junior Watson – Nothin’ To It But To Do It
Junior Watson is an icon of West Coast blues. The liner notes by Kid Andersen speak with reverence about Watson as an influence and friend. Recorded at Andersen’s Greaseland Studio and produced by Jim Pugh’s Little Village Foundation, a non-profit company in the music industry that produces and distributes what it considers to be culturally significant recordings. Watson was a founding member of the blues band The Mighty Flyers and spent 10 years working with them through the 1980s. In the 1990’s, he performed with Canned Heat and has worked with legends like Big Mama Thornton, George Smith, Jimmy Rogers, Luther Tucker, Charlie Musselwhite, John Németh, and Kim Wilson.
On this recording Watson dabbles in vocals and does most all the guitar work. SAx gordon is on sax, Jim Pugh is on keys. Kedar Roy is on bass, Andrew Guterman is on drums, and Gary Smith is on harp. Lisa Leuschner Andersen is on vocals as in Alabama Mike (tracks 5 and 8). Kid Andersen fills in here and there, doing what he lists as “miscellaneous.”
“Up And Out” gets things going, a sweet swing tune with old style organ, pretty sax work and lots of good guitar. This instrumental is quite cool as each of the three get to give us solid solos and jump and jive to the nice beat. “Don’t Freeze On Me” brings us our first sample of Lisa’s vocals and she’s got a great set of pipes! She shouts out the lead with grit and emotion as Watson and the band also deliver the goods. Watson takes his turn fronting the band on the old classic “Louella,” where he does an admirable job on this mid-tempo swing. A blazing sax solo is followed by a restrained but oh-so-cool guitar solo. The next cut is another great instrumental, an old Duke Ellington cut called “Ska-Ra-Van.” The band gives us a nice rumba beat and some fine playing overall with sax and keys primarily featured here. Alabama Mike’s first turn out front is the original “A Shot In The Dark,” a slow and greasy blues with Watson sublimely opening on guitar. Mike sings with emotion, Gordon blows his horn with intensity, Pugh tinkles the keys with fervor and Watson’s guitar is just more Watson at his best.
Kid’s wife sings “Whole Lotta Lovin'” for us, a uptempo piece with more expressive vocals and guitar. “Summer Love” follows, a pretty little instrumental that flows sweetly with a beautiful guitar lead; wonderful touch and tone! “That’s Tough” is next has Alabama Mike return for more good vocal lead to enjoy. The piano backs him as he growls and shouts out the lyrics. Gordon, Watson and Pugh take turns soloing and it’s more superb stuff to enjoy. Lisa Andersen returns for “One Way Street” with some breathy and sexy vocals. Gordon gives us a nice, log solo that adds to the feel of the cut. “Well, You Know” introduces the harp to us with some honky tonk piano and more of Watson’s vocals. Piano. harp and guitar give us some tasty sounds to savor here.
“Space Flight” is the title song of a 1960 organist Sam Lazar instrumental album with Grant Green on guitar. The organ and guitar get fantastic, updated treatment and Gordon sweetens the pot with some grooving sax work. Next is “I Found You” where Lisa Andersen gives us her take on this Yvonne Fair classic. groovy guitar, organ and sax help make this great cut even better. “So Glad She’s Mine” is an old Charles “Hungry” Williams cut from Checker Records that Watson nails vocally. Gordon’s sax solo is beautifully done. Watson’s “The Pee Wee Classic” gives us his take on Pee Wee Crayton in this tribute instrumental. Watson takes the lead and then Gordon also delivers some great sax. Not to be outdone, Pugh comes in on piano for another solo before Watson bats cleanup. The finale is “You’re Gonna Need Me Before I Need You,” with Lisa Andersen singing with so much feeling that one gets a little emotional. Watson gives us a superb extended solo as a parting gift in this one.
What can I say? You want utterly wonderful West Coast blues? Then look not further. You want guitar work that is impeccable? You’ve got it here. How about some stellar horn blowing? Sax Gordon gives it to you. Piano and organ that are sublimely cool? Again, you’ve got it here. A great mix of vocal leads sung with emotion and lots of charm? It’s here, too. This is a superb album of blues delivered by a master and his friends. Watson and company take a baker’s dozen of exceptional tunes and turn them into their own and a couple of truly delightful originals to give you fifteen tracks to enjoy over and over again. And once you listen, you will listen to it again and again. I loved this album and listened to it many times while getting ready to review it and now that I’m done with the review I fear my future work will be impacted by wanting to here it again and again.