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Chris Thomas King: The Legend of Tommy Johnson, Act I: Genesis 1900s-1990s

In a case of life imitating art imitating life, Chris Thomas King revives the character he played in the recent Coen brothers’ movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? on The Legend of Tommy Johnson Act 1: Genesis 1900s-1990s (Valley Entertainment 15156; 48:36). A back-to-basics acoustic blues offering complete with scratchy record effects to add a sense of antiquity, a majority of the tunes on The Legend of Tommy Johnson Act 1 were written by King in his trailer on the movie set as he listened to Delta blues from the 1920s. Along with those originals he also covers the real Tommy Johnson’s “Canned Heat Blues” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Trouble Will Soon Be Over.” King wrote and recorded the entire album in character and is even pictured in 1920s garb on the CD cover. While most of the tunes are stark solo guitar and vocal offerings, “John Law Burned Down the Liquor Sto'” is a big overdubbed number that features King playing all the instruments himself, including piano, drums, upright bass, acoustic guitar and dobro. To further confuse things, King comes full circle from the 1920s to contemporary times-why?-with a revved up, Prince-styled rendition of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” along with some kick-ass electric-guitar-fueled rockers in “Red Shoes,” “Bonnie & Clyde in D Minor” and “Do Fries Go With That Shake?” (a title that can be attributed to George Clinton). A very strange hodgepodge, but then, I didn’t see the movie.

Originally Published