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Big Jack Johnson: Roots Stew

Big Jack Johnson is a raw, houserockin’ muthaferya. On Roots Stew, his latest with his band The Oilers, (MC Records 0039; 63:35), the man from Clarksdale, Miss., speaks eloquently in the dialects of country blues (“Cherry Tree,” “Beale Street”), Chicago blues (the Howlin’ Wolf-styled “Hummingbird”) and even rockabilly (“Jump for Joy”). A decided B.B. King influence comes out on the upbeat shuffle “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” and on the slow, instrumental blues of “Late Night With Jack.” He wields a wicked slide on “Too Many Rats” and kicks up a raucous storm on the album’s other instrumental, “Going Too Far,” with allusions to “Baby Please Don’t Go.” A special treat here is his acoustic duet with harmonica ace Wild Child Butler on the road warrior’s lament, “I Wanna Go Home (I Been Out Here Playing these Blues Too Long).” Another powerful number is “So Long Frank Frost,” written and performed at the funeral for his longtime friend, who died last year.

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