Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grim Reaper reviewed by Steve Jones

Grim Reaper
Rockin’ Johnny Band
Delmark Records
15 tracks

This album should be entitled, “The blues are alive and kicking!”  Rockin’ Johnny Burgin returns and delivers some fresh and cool new songs.  His youth and energy make him appeal to a brand new generation of blues fans along with the more seasoned blues fan veterans.  Delmark has helped him produce an outstanding new CD, packed with 15 cuts, mostly new.

The CD commences with the title cut and it’s a good one, with Johnny debating with the man with a sickle.  Very old school sound with Johnny’s standout vocals.  Billy Flynn’s “Don’t Mess With Me Baby” gets a groove on and Burgin runs and runs with it vocally and on guitar.  “My Baby’s A Good ‘Un” also gives us the trademark vocals and he des the Otis Rush cut justice with his interpretation.  “Window To Your Soul” is another great original and Johnny and company give it their all; vocals and guitar by Burgin are spot on and Big D Erickson’s harp her and throughout are just so hot.

Others in the band are Rick Kreher on rhythm guitar, John Sefner on bass and Steve Bass on drums.  These guys are solid in their support. “It’s Expensive” adds Dudley Owens on tenor and Jerry DiMuzio on baritone saxes.  This new tune is slow and moving and at the 2 minute mark Burgin is testifying oh-so-well on guitar; the saxes are there for effect but are not used out front, which might have made this even better. Di Muzio also fills in on “My Sweet Baby” and has a more forthright presence and blows out some mean sounds.

Johnny ends with a Christmas tune, “Party This Christmas”.  He picks out the melody and sings while the jingle bells fill in tambourine-style.  A fitting end and it makes this release an “all season” album.

I enjoyed this CD a lot.  I saw Johnny live recently for the first time and was impressed.  This CD impressed me even more– solid stuff done in a traditional Chicago manner while sounding fresh and clean and exciting.  I think most lovers of the Chicago blues will find something here to entertain them!

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