Let’s word it this way: few if any blues artists can pump life into a overwrought classic like Tommy Tucker’s 1964 hit “High Heeled Sneakers.” Jimmy Johnson can, and does. Granted, this set is from the mid ’70s, but his stamp of style is current, timeless, and pretty much without peer among the second-generation Chicago blues guitarists.
Pepper’s Hangout, culled from a set of 1977 performances recorded by legendary producer Ralph Bass, and recognizing (although with an incorrect name) the famous Southside club, showcases the then 48-year-old in top form.
Jimmy has always languished outside the mainstream blues limelight, despite wonderful albums recorded throughout the past three decades. Case in point, the 23 expired years it took this one to be released!
His age, 72, is not even a consideration. Jimmy is in control of tactile instrumental fingers that are the perfect foil his somewhat thin but impacting and immediately identifiable voice. And don’t be dismayed by the mostly cover tunes, because regardless of familiarity, they bear his unmistakable signature.
His guitar work will always be compared to Otis Rush. And with good reason; they’ve both mastered a style that brings a near human quality to the instrument. But it is we, the listener, who will benefit from Johnson’s late success. At the rate this CD was released, we’ll be able to enjoy his efforts until perhaps the next millennium.
Delmark Records 4121 N. Rockwell, Chicago, Il 60619.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.