|You Don't Know What Love Is
|Little By Little
|When My First Wife Quit Me
|I Have The Same Old Blues
|Cold, Cold Feeling
JIMMY JOHNSON, Guitar and Vocals
JENE PICKETT, Keyboards
LARRY EXUM, Bass
FRED GRADY, Drums
Produced by Disques Black & Blues
Recorded at Sysmo Studios, Paris, France
Engineered and mixed by Dominique Samarcq
Originally released in France on Blue Phoenix Records under the title Heap See (BP 33.720)
U.S. album release coordinated by Bruce Iglauer
Cover photos designed by Dave Grundvig
Cover design by Steve Holmquist
Mastered by Tom Coyne at Frankford/Wayne, New York, NY
Special thanks to Jean-Pierre Tahmazian, Didier Tricard, Justin Niebank, Dick Shurman, Jim Dolam, Jr., Mindy Giles and Sarah Jo Kolanda
Jimmy Johnson has preached many a blues sermon over the past decade, and his piercing, knife-in-your-ribs guitar attack and ultra-soulful voice have converted countless non-believers to his flock, from the U.S. to Europe to Japan.
Since he first hit the blues circuit full time in the mid-1970's, Jimmy has become one of Chicago's top-drawing bluesmen. When he's not on tour, he's packing them in at the Windy City's top blues clubs, including B.L.U.E.S., Kingston Mines, Blue Chicago and the Wise Fools Pub. His searing set in front of 40,000 fans was one of the high points of the 1984 Chicago Blues Festival.
Jimmy burst on the Chicago blues scene in 1974, already a mature and inventive artist. His four outstanding tracks on Volume One of Alligator's Living Chicago Blues, cut in 1978, brought his name into the national limelight. And a pair of critically acclaimed albums on Delmark-Johnson's Whacks in 1979 and North//South three years later-proved Jimmy to be a witty and prolific songwriter, combining elements of jazz, rock and country into his blues, to forge a style all his own.
But Jimmy Johnson's musical resume hardly reads like an overnight success story. Born into an exceptionally talented musical family (brother Syl is a very popular R&B vocalist while brother Mac Thompson was Magic Sam's longtime bassist), Jimmy first leaned toward gospel music. Moving to Chicago in 1950, young Jimmy harmonized and played guitar with the Gospel Jubilaires, while working days as a welder, until the blues beckoned. He began gigging with harpist Slim Willis in 1959, and jammed in the West Side taverns, picking up guitar licks from Magic Sam and Freddie King. But there was more cash to be made as an R&B artist.
So Jimmy resigned himself to leading house bands around the South and West Sides, performing whatever was hot on the jukebox, and backing soul stars like Otis Clay, Denise LaSalle and Garland Green. His instrumental version of brother Syl's smash Sock It To Me (credited to The Deacons), hit the charts in December of '68. But Jimmy was growing tired of covering everyone else's hits. He wanted to be his own man, a bluesman.
Jimmy's back-to-the-blues campaign began in 1974, when he signed on with Jimmy Dawkins as rhythm guitarist. He toured Japan with Dawkins and Otis Rush, appearing on Rush's live Japanese album and a Dawkins studio LP before putting together his own band and beginning to make his own blues statement.
The intense, personal approach that Jimmy showed on his earlier Alligator and Delmark records is again delivered on Bar Room Preacher. Heap See is a brilliant new original, a well-crafted observation on the human condition. Jimmy takes standards like Cold, Cold Feeling and Little By Little and makes them fresh and vibrant, pouring on chorus after chorus of steaming hot guitar.
The West Side influence of Magic Sam and Otis Rush is obvious on When My First Wife Quit Me, and Fenton Robinson's You Don't Know What Love Is gets a stinging Johnson treatment. Same Old Blues and Jimmy's originals, Happy Home and Missing Link slide into an uptempo shuffle groove and cook.
Just listen to Jimmy Johnson testify...he preaches a sermon so powerful it will turn anyone into a blues believer!
Bill Dahl, contributor