Saturday, April 11, 2009

Review: Shirley Johnson "Blues Attack"

Shirley Johnson, along with Eddie C. Campbell, are being announced as the headliners of the 2009 Chicago Blues Festival--and I just received Shirley's most recent cd "Blues Attack" in the mail. Seems like a good time to give her a spin and review. This disc sounds both new and old at the same time--it is blues with a healthy dose of R&B and splash of gospel. I first listened to it on a Saturday morning drive through the country, and it was perfect company. Johnson is a SINGER--her voice is rich and wide and deep. She is a 15+ year veteran of the Chicago blues club scene, and on this disc the arrangements harken back to that classic soulful Delmark sound of the mid 70s. Musicianship is top notch throughout--the combination of Cordell Teague on drums and Lovely 'JR' Fuller on bass, along with Roosevelt Purifoy on piano/Hammond B-3 organ, are simply, solidly perfect. On song after song the guitars cook, the horn section sings, the backing vocals are exactly where you think they should be. This may not be cutting edge music making, but it is a solid tight ensemble. On "Just Like That" I had to stop the car and look at the liner notes to see that it wasn't Magic Sam on that great guitar solo! No, just the combination of Luke Pytel and Herb Walker ripping note after great note. Then Johnson revives and torches the Cropper/Floyd "Unchain My Heart" and completely takes it back from Ray Charles and Joe Cocker. This one song is worth the whole cd.

If you are a fan of Chicago blues, or a fan of great female vocalists, or a fan of classic soul, this cd belongs in your collection. Great work Shirley. Thanks! You can buy it direct at