PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Robert Lockwood Jr.: Robert Lockwood Jr.: The Complete Trix Recordings

Chip O'Brien

Robert Lockwood Jr.

Robert Lockwood Jr.: the Complete Trix Recordings

Label: Savoy Jazz
US Release Date: 2003-09-23
UK Release Date: Available as import

Robert Lockwood Jr.'s music is a repository of rhythm, blues, and jazz styles from the last century. From the crude and virile slide of Robert Johnson to the jump and swing of Louis Jordan's music, as well as the complexity and technique of bebop, Lockwood somehow manages to distill all these influences down into one unique and confident voice. The Complete Trix Recordings captures Robert Lockwood Jr. during the '70s at the peak of his creative powers.

Now in his eighties, Lockwood learned his first blues licks from the much-mythologized Robert Johnson, who actually lived with Lockwood's mother for a spell. As a young man he made his way up to Chicago. He backed musicians and singers such as Little Walter and pianist Sunnyland Slim. The majority of his career up until the '70s, however, was spent as a sideman. The recordings gathered here present Lockwood in the role of bandleader.

As a writer, Lockwood's talents are formidable. And while his lyrics are adequate, his instrumental pieces sound the most inspired, leaving one to wonder if, given his druthers, Lockwood might have preferred a career which had revolved around purely instrumental music without the headache of having to come up with words to match the power and intensity of his riffs and melodies. One might even go as far as to wonder whether Lockwood might have been happier being classified not as a bluesman but as a jazz musician.

Some of Lockwood's best compositions on The Complete Trix Recordings are "Annie's Boogie", a peppy jump blues, and "Majors, Minors, and Ninths", a track that catches Lockwood playing adeptly over complex chord progressions, changes that would be difficult to improvise on without a knowledge of jazz harmony. The most smoking track on the whole collection is "Half Steppin", a Thelonious Monk/Duke Ellington-inspired tune which Lockwood, on his signature electric twelve-string, and saxophonist Maurice Reedus simply tear up. All three songs are instrumentals. The only instrumental that sounds more inspired by the music of Motown rather than Charlie Parker or Louis Jordan is "Howdy Dowdy", a soulful and groovy tune that would have fit nicely on one of the Cannonball Adderly recordings of the '60s, a time when Cannonball was exploring his roots and moving away from more complex music.

The funny thing is that most of the hype generated about Lockwood has revolved around his connection to Robert Johnson and the influence that the blues-great had on him, which seems, if anything, irrelevant when you listen to this collection of songs on which Lockwood apparently had free reign. The truth is when he does the Mississippi Delta/Robert Johnson thing, he sounds almost bored. But when he performs the more swing/jump/blues/bebop oriented material, he and his bandmates come to life. It's as if Lockwood has continued to do the Robert Johnson schtick simply because it is expected of him, but that his heart lies closer to the rhythm and harmony of other genres of blues and jazz.

All that said, it must be noted that there are some great straight-ahead, soulful and melodic blues gathered here, tunes that Lockwood wrote or covered. "Mr. Down Child" and "Hold Everything" are feel-good blues tunes written by Lockwood. "Just A Little Bit" and "Red Top" are two covers he serves up with plenty of relish.

Overall, The Complete Trix Recordings is a solid collection made by an artist who has assimilated many blues and jazz styles, and somehow made them his own.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.