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CD REVIEW -- Johnny Burgin
WGLT Highway 309


Johnny Burgin—Live

Delmark Records

14 tracks

Rockin' Johnny Burgin Live CD art

by Steve Jones

Recorded live at the Redwood Café in Cotati, California, in the Bay Area, ex-Chicago bluesman Johnny Burgin (a.ka. Rockin’ Johnny) gives us twelve new cuts and two covers with his current West Coast bandmates and some fine special guests!  Recorded in just one night, the music feels like they have been on the road and honing their craft for weeks; this is a testament to all involved!


The band is Johnny Burgin on vocals and guitar, Aki Kumar on harp (cuts 1 and 5) and percussion (cuts 3 and 9), Kid Andersen (guitarist for Rick Estrin & The Nightcats) on guitar (except for tacks 4, 7 and 12) and piano (tracks 7 and 12), Chris Matheos on bass and Steve Dougherty on drums. Blues siren Rae Gordon shares the vocals on 4 tracks, living legend Charlie Musslewhite blows some harp on 3 and Nancy Wright plays a powerhouse sax for 5 tracks.  The band and guests are tight and really do a fine job.


Things start with “You Got To Make a Change,” a rocking cut with Johnny singing and playing with Andersen; both lay out some mean guitar and Aki Kumar blows some dirty sounding harp. “Can’t Make It Blues” is a pretty, slow blues that Johnny and Kid wail on quite effectively. “She Gave Me The Slip” is a midtempo blues with some thoughtful and emotive guitar picking. “You’re My Trinket” is a neat little shuffle with more stellar guitar work, here just with Johnny. Earl Hooker’s “The Leading Brand” is the first of the two covers.  Kumar plays some nice harp in this fine instrumental piece and Andersen and Burgin lay out some cool guitar licks, too. Robert Lockwood’s “I Got To Find Me A Woman” is the other cover.  Wright appears on sax as Burgin gets started, then Rae Gordon joins the fray with her powerful voice.  She and Johnny spar vocally and make this one a lot of fun. Wright takes off into a huge tenor sax solo that is mighty fine and it gets followed by an equally fine set of guitar solos. “Late Night Date Night” is co-written by Gordon and Burgin; Johnny excels on guitar while Gordon delivers a powerful yet sultry performance.


Wright returns for “”You Took The Bait” as Ms. Gordon fronts the band and Burgin and Andersen team up on guitar again.  There’s a nice guitar solo followed by a sax solo here along with Gordon’s well done vocals.  “Daddy’s Got The Personal Touch” is the last cut featuring Gordon. She and Johnny share the vocals with Johnny on the verses and Rae on the choruses. Wright gives us a solid solo on sax and later the guitar solos are equally impressive. “Louisiana Walk” is a super little guitar instrumental with Wright backing the hot and heavy guitar work.


“Blues Falling” brings Charlie Musselwhite to the mix.  He blows some amazing harp, as he always does, as Johnny sings and plays along with him – good stuff! “California Blues” follows, a blues song about the state of California; it begins slowly as Johnny sings with emotion and Charlie replies on harp.  Then the pace quickens to a moderate boogie woogie as Johnny sings and Charlie plays. This is straight up Chicago blues with a West Coast theme.  Both got shots at solos and both took full advantage, giving the live crowd, and now the CD listener, a stellar performance. The guitar stings in “When The Bluesman Comes To Town” and Johnny sings with even more emotion.  Charlie continues to blow mean harp; slow blues that is just great, great stuff!  The album concludes with “Jody’s Jazz,” a slick little instrumental with some blistering guitar and sax.


Burgin has crafted some fine new songs and put together a great set for listeners to enjoy.  The album showcases the band and their guests and the recording captures the energy and feeling of the event.  This is a fine CD and another nice accomplishment from a fine young bluesman– kudos to Rockin’ Johnny for this outstanding album.  It’s a winner and you need to listen to it ASAP!

For info or to buy the music: 

About the Author: Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois in Byron/Rockford, which earned the 2013 Keepin’ The Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis.


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