Robert Lockwood Jr. is a blues treasure. Common-law stepson and one-time protégé to the legendary Robert Johnson (who lived on and off with his mother), Lockwood remains a very vital musician at age 85. On Delta Crossroads, the Arkansas-born singer/guitarist again pays tribute to his stepfather with a solo performance that’s spare but powerful.
Lockwood’s song choices seem a bit too obvious here, but his sturdy, avuncular vocals and deft picking on 12-string amplified guitar (a hollow-bodied acoustic) make the familiar sound new. Eight of these 16 songs were written by Johnson, including "32-20 Blues," "I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom," and "Ramblin’ on My Mind ." Lockwood tosses in sundry other chestnuts ("C.C. Rider, "Keys to the Highway"), as well as a few new originals.
Lockwood’s synopated guitar work is obviously descended from Johnson’s style, but with significant differences. For one thing, Lockwood doesn't use a bottleneck here. Furthermore, he executes some changes that would confound most present-day guitarists, never mind a bluesman from the ‘30s. His voice is less ominous than Johnson’s, but it conveys the spirit of a man who’s lived long and hard.
Lockwood makes these old tunes sound so natural. I guess when you’ve been singing and picking the blues for 70 years, you get it right after awhile. A century or so after the Delta blues was born, the music still lives and breathes on Delta Crossroads.