Jimmy Johnson "Every Day of Your Life (Delmark)"
Four decades ago, Jimmy Johnson permanently established himself as a front-rank Chicago bluesman with his unusually imaginative Delmark debut album Johnson’s Whacks (DE 644). Now he’s come full circle: Jimmy’s back on Delmark with this exciting release, which shows that he remains a vital blues force into his 90s. Johnson’s fluid, slicing guitar licks dart and spark with unpredictable elasticity throughout this set. His voice soars to the heavens time and again, never misplacing its melismatic passion no matter the tempo.
From the funky opening original “Every Day Of Your Life,” constructed around a wise lyrical message, to a churning “Down In The Valley” and exquisitely tailored revivals of the lights-out slow blues “Strange Things Happening” and a hard- driving “I Need You So Bad,” Jimmy is never less than masterful. Few contemporary bluesmen are so devastating when working in a minor key— witness Johnson’s personalized treatment of Fenton Robinson’s classic “Somebody Loan Me A Dime.” “My Ring,” another standout original, takes a swaying and unexpected reggae turn (pushing the stylistic envelope has long been one of Jimmy’s trademarks), and Johnson sits down behind the 88s for a solo reprise of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s uplifting “Lead Me On” to close the album in deeply moving style.
Funny thing is, Jimmy only became a full-time blues guitarist in the mid -1970s. Prior to that, he mostly traversed the R&B side of the tracks. Born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Johnson grew up along with another future blues luminary, Matt Murphy. “I picked up a guitar because Murphy had a guitar,” he says. Sacred and secular sounds competed for his attention. “My first time of singing in front of an audience, I was singing gospel,” notes Jimmy. “My uncle had a Victrola, the ones you wind up, and I got to hear John Lee Hooker, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Sonny Boy Williamson.”
Check out the laid-back funk “Down In The Valley.”
Goran Ivanovic & Fareed Haque "IndoBalkan (Delmark)"
After a 20-year hiatus, virtuoso guitarists Goran Ivanovic and Fareed Haque have joined forces again! A year of intensive touring and composing has produced IndoBalkan, the duo’s debut release on Delmark Records. Featuring rising star percussionist Juan Pastor and incorporating elements of jazz, classical, Indian and Balkan music, the duo explore longer, more complex compositions and stunning technical challenges while retaining their love for beautiful melodies and sweet tones. Two of the most gifted guitarists performing today, their styles and backgrounds are vastly different but, as the Chicago Tribune wrote of them, “when their two guitars play, cultural barriers melt away.”
With IndoBalkan, Ivanovic & Haque are offering their audience a collaborative musical capstone. This multifaceted projects brings together the duo’s musical and geographical influences and showcases their virtuosity and creative lyricism.
Certain tunes like “Prorok” or “Detour Samba” showcase their ensemble and rhythmic sophistication while others like “Rhodes” and “Ikaria” are sensitive, lyrical, and introspective. Percussion widens the palette of the record, performed both on the guitars themselves, as in “Santorini”, as well as on other instruments. Fareed adds a spatial wash of cymbals to the title track “IndoBalkan” and up-and-coming percussioning Juan Pastor guests on “Jim Phelps”.
Over time, Ivanovic & Haque’s music and performance has evolved and matured, becoming more thoughtful and expressive, while retaining its natural athleticism. Their fresh musical language is propelled by strong rhythms, verging closely towards popular forms, meant to be felt and experienced, revealing an inner solidity. — Notes by Julia A. Miller
Check out the haunting title track “IndoBalkan.”
OOIOO "nijimusi (Bandcamp)"
From Thrill Jockey:
Sounds created for no reason. Sounds that come and go, and disappear into the air like a scent, as soon as they materialize. Atonal phrases that hold the meaning of words that existed before the advent of language. The wonders of a vortex pulsing with life. Just as a new discovery is actually a new way of looking to see what has always been there, OOIOO, seemingly from the core of their being, created a world of sound made up of parts well known that is strikingly precise and intensely original. After a six year hiatus, OOIOO has created a new album that goes back to the roots of being a four-piece band. The music shows the full spectrum of the unique sound they have crafted throughout the years, which can only be described as “OOIOO”.
Aoife Nessa Frances "Land Of No Junction (Ba Da Bing)"
Look. I hate to get completely reductive and just throw a bunch of RIYLs at you in these blurbs. But sometimes the RIYLs are so perfect that you just gotta lead with them. So, then, readers, if–like me–you like yourself some Yo La Tengo, some Stereolab, some Nico, then you should definitely be excited for the debut album from Irish performer Aoife Nessa Frances (which has been named Uncut’s Album Of The Month for January 2020). Co-produced by Cian Nugent, Land Of No Junction (Ba Da Bing!) is a hazy, gauzy dose of stunning psych pop. Warm guitars, synths, and Aoife’s vocals mix together into a sunset of warm glowing warming glows. Check out the supremely YLT-esque “Blow Up.”