April 27, 2016

John Lee Hooker - That's My Story (1960)


John Lee Hooker is my favorite blues artist. I don't think there are any folk singers with a better voice, period. His words, spoken with a thick and deep bellow, really come out of the record, grab you by the heart, and order you to sit there and listen to the real shit he's about to rattle off. Hooker's guitar playing ranks among the most elite in all of blues music. For this album, he goes acoustic and commands the tones and volume of his guitar to fit the band's groove and his lyrics like it's a part of his body. The backing band is one-of-a-kind as well. I noticed a very potent swing in some of the faster blues pieces, and upon further research I see that Sam Jones and Louis Hayes serve as Hooker's backdrop for this date. All you jazz heads know the incredible work of Jones and Hayes with Cannonball Adderley and a good handful of other Blue Note and Riverside albums. The result of these bluesy forces colliding is a legendary session that defines early late 50s/early 60s delta blues as well as John Lee Hooker's career. One of the album's most impressive standouts is the first track, Hooker's take on Money (That's What I Want). Like a true bluesman he transforms a cute little R&B hit into a deep and harrowing lament about the fears of sinking further into debt. Joe matches the opener with an equally moving bookend, That's My Story, the true tale of his travels and struggles with money. I think this is one of the greatest examples of talking blues and would no doubt influence other blues musicians as well as spoken word artists of the 70s such as Gil Scott-Heron and Isaac Hayes.

Sample

That's My Story