Most blues tend to travel back in time to the days of hardtack and trolley cars, but the son of the hallowed John Lee Hooker, John Lee Jr., needs stray no further afield than five minutes ago to come up with today's crop of loners, heartbreakers, cheaters, lovers, and allsorts re-capturing what the blues is all about: human foibles, crawling up from despair, trying to figure out just what the hell's going on in this strange parade we call life. All Hooked Up continues that penchant and even includes a tribute to the modern soldier (You be my Hero). Ah, but don't think Johnny doesn't know his wellsprings, y'all. He comes from the best and credits dad, Johnny Guitar Watson, Louis Armstrong, and others, then jumps into Johnny Otis territory in Listen to the Music.
Hooked is his fifth release, and the man's ensembles are always tight, jumpin' with some pretty ripping and/or rhythmically charged guitarists. On this outing, Lucky Peterson, Wilton Rabb, and Alvon Johnson sit in while John Garcia and Jeff Horan are all over the place, frequently backgrounded in order to blend into the plentiful horns. The legendary Betty Wright drops by for I Surrender, and Hard Times takes on a very Lou Rawls shape, Garcia providing a tasty middle eight (in several other songs as well) while Hooker leans back for a moment or two. In fact, where his father sang in a dark, moody, below-the-subway range, the son is in fact much more Rawls-ian all through this and all his discs.
Like his father, rather than just lament and pine like so many bluesers, John Jr. tells stories drawing the listener into the narrative of his work-outs, buffing up the dimensions of the sonorities. He also isn't terribly fond of the macho side of the house and acknowledges the travails of women at the hands of nasty or apathetic men (Tired of Being a Housewife). As said, he's taking the blues to new places and may well be the most contemporary of his ilk. He's doing now what other blooz boyz will be putting out 20 years fom now.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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