Music

John Lee Hooker: The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues

Jason MacNeil

John Lee Hooker

The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues

Label: Chess
US Release Date: 2002-03-12
Amazon
iTunes

Although he passed away last year, blues legend John Lee Hooker is still a source of inspiration for many blues, pop, and rock newcomers. Along with Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Howlin' Wolf, Hooker's legacies has been captured in various boxsets, remastered editions and compilations. But in 1966, Chess Records decided to record each of the four artists. Each artist would record his own The Real Folk Blues as well as a More Real Folk Blues in 1967. All of these artists released both albums, except for Hooker. In 1991, nine tracks recorded from the session was released as More Real Folk Blues: The Missing Album. Now, for the first time, all 18 tracks are gathered in one collection. And like fine wine, the songs only seem to better with time.

The Real Folk Blues starts off with "Let's Go Out Tonight" and has Hooker's blues boogie and ragged howls all over the song. Backed by guitarist Eddie Burns, who was a longtime friend from Hooker's early days in Detroit, the tune has all the qualities of a standard blues classic. The subtle tickling of the ivories over drummer Fred Below's no-nonsense tempo is proof of that. It's a song that obviously had influences on newcomers at the time like the Rolling Stones, particularly when considering the band's eventual signature "Midnight Rambler". What is probably the oddest thing about the song is its length and ceaseless boogie feeling over almost seven minutes. "Peace Lovin' Man" consists of a typical, slower-paced blues arrangement while "Stella Mae" returns to a more hell-raising performance. The bassist, who is still unknown but is thought to be Phil Upchurch, Leroy Stewart, or Jack Meyer, has an infectious groove that never falters.

"I Put My Trust In You" still packs a punch, but the track doesn't emit the same emotion Hooker offers. This sounds more like a run through than anything else, despite some lovely dueling guitar work. Hooker takes things down another notch with "I'm in the Mood", but the results are far greater here. While lacking a certain boogie to it, this is a song that gnaws in your gut and doesn't let go. The authenticity cannot be denied. Hooker has lived it and he's going to tell you about it, plain and simple. As a result, "You Know, I Know" tends to roll off the blues assembly line with much more oomph to it.

One of Hooker's signature songs is "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer". With more of a rambling vibe in it, the endlessly covered tune has all of the musicians working for the common good of the song. The first album closes with a sparse and haunting track, "The Waterfront". With just his voice, toe taps, and guitar, Hooker captures the "real folk blues" component of that Chicago session in a mesmerizing performance. An interpretation of a previous song by Hooker, "I Cover the Waterfront", he has a roots quality to his delivery here.

The nine newly discovered tracks that compose More Real Folk Blues have a definitive folk blues feeling to them, much more than the first album. "This Land Is Nobody's Land" has a distinct social protest quality to it. "I don't know why the people gettin' out of hand / This land is no one's land" he sings before letting his guitar do an equal share of the talking. "Deep Blue Sea" is the antithesis of the previous track, resembling an early Fats Domino single or a modern day Bob Dylan tune. Moving on all sonic cylinders, Hooker plays a bit part here over the piano and rambling bass line. Howling and hollering, Hooker expresses more emotion here, and it works quite well.

"You got to be through these things to say the blues," he mutters and hums in "Nobody Knows", one of the average tunes of the18 here. Autobiographical and honest almost to a fault, the pacing is too middle-of-the-road. "Mustang Sally & GTO" creates numerous boogies-within-boogies, whether it's the initial verses or Hooker playing off the terse harmonica playing. British blues groups would flock towards this style of song as it feels like it could burst out at any given moment in any direction. Remaking some of his older songs was another large portion of the session, as "Lead Me" is a remake of "You Can Lead Me Baby". Although not exactly different from the original, it still keeps the listener's attention.

Willie Dixon's "I Can't Quit You Baby" is the only cover song here. But it's not the memorable track you might anticipate. A standard arrangement almost downplays the song at times and it thereby suffers from it. "Want Ad Blues" is a great one-two punch with the closing "House Rent Blues", but by then, the legend has been once again proven. A must have for anyone new to the blues or wanting to see what the fuss was and still is all about.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image