October 25, 2017

John Lee Hooker - Hooker 'N Heat (1971)


Hooker 'N Heat is a collaboration between the legendary blues musician John Lee Hooker and the famous 60s blues rock band Canned Heat. The album is usually credited to both artists, but that's nonsensical (white people marketing) since this is just solo John Lee Hooker with Canned Heat acting as his producers/engineers and occasional backing band. Hooker's deep and strong voice pounds the blues into your bones as he always does, but where he really sets himself ahead of everyone else with this record is his ability on the guitar. I'm not sure if there's another guitarist--even Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Hazel--that can hold a candle to Hooker's execution of dynamics on the instrument. The guitar talks right back via melancholy vibratos or biting chords after each sung line. The lyrics are dead, barebones, and depressing and Hooker knows how to deliver these words to every desperate person's ears. Even though Canned Heat only makes a few performances as a full band, Blind Owl steps in and does a few more incredible harmonica accompaniments. I'm no mouth harp aficionado, but it's good enough for me to make a comment and--more importantly--it's good enough for John Lee Hooker to comment "I really dig the kid's harmonica playing; I don't know how he follows me, but he do!". What's amazing is how these guys had not played together before the session and, as you'll hear from whoever's in the booth, they're one-taking most of the songs. When the full band does join in for some spots on the second disc it's some absolutely earth-scorching boogies that set a new standard for blues and blues rock. Hooker 'N Heat is one of the all time greatest albums and is a good starting point for anyone just getting their feet wet with blues. Also, I see this as a sister album to Mississippi Fred McDowell's I Do Not Play No Rock 'N Roll (a lot of similarities in how they came to fruition), so if you've heard one and not the other, you're seriously missing out on some real shit.

Sample

Hooker 'N Heat