136

Earl Hooker: Simply the Best

Ed Kopp By

Sign in to view read count
Nearly 30 years after succumbing to tuberculosis at age 41, blues guitarist Earl Zebedee Hooker is finally getting his due. Many critics now cite Hooker as the finest guitarist in Chicago's storied blues history, and Simply the Best goes a long way toward proving their point.

A number of Hooker recordings have been re-released on CD, but Simply the Best comes closest to showcasing the full extent of the guitarist's singular genius.

Second cousin to the more famous John Lee Hooker, Earl Hooker was a master of the slide guitar and one of very few blues axemen to experiment successfully with wah wah pedal and fuzz box. An inventive musician, Hooker also dabbled in jazz and country in addition to the blues.

Born in Mississippi, the itinerant Chicago-based guitarist backed so many singers and recorded for such a smorgasbord of labels that it must been a legal challenge compiling this 19-track retrospective.

Simply The Best features Hooker backing heavyweights Muddy Waters ("You Shook Me"), cousin John Lee Hooker ("Messin' Around With the Blues," "If You Miss 'Im, I Got 'Im"), Sonny Terry and Brownee McGee ("When I Was Drinkin') and Charles Brown ("Drifting Blues"). There are also two tracks apiece with keyboardist/vocalist Johnny "Big Moose" Walker and Andrew "Voice" Odom. For me the high points are the guitarist's groovin' originals, particularly the country-influenced hit "Tanya," the infectious 1969 instrumental "Hookin'" and the fast-rockin' "You Got To Lose," which was covered recently by Cesar Rosas.

Each track is distinguished by Hooker's blistering riffs, his exceptionally clean lines, and his unusual swooping phrases. In Earl Hooker's capable hands, the electric guitar sounded every bit as emotive as any blues vocalist. This is a fine Hooker overview, but it's an incomplete retrospective without "Hucklebuck" and "Swear to Tell the Truth."

Hooker's voice was hindered by the tuberculosis that gradually ravaged his lungs, but there was something very genuine in his simple delivery. Two of his rare vocal tracks are included here.

Unfortunately TB forced "Zeb" to let his guitar do most of the communicating, but what a communicator it was!

| Record Label: MCA | Style: Blues


Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Buddy Guy Buddy Guy
guitar, electric
Muddy Waters Muddy Waters
guitar
Howlin' Wolf Howlin' Wolf
vocalist
T-Bone Walker T-Bone Walker
guitar, electric
Albert King Albert King
guitar, electric
Junior Wells Junior Wells
harmonica
Elmore James Elmore James
guitar, slide
Otis Rush Otis Rush
guitar, electric
Robert Nighthawk Robert Nighthawk
guitar, slide
Billy Boy Arnold Billy Boy Arnold
harmonica
Johnny Shines Johnny Shines
guitar

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Rejoice! I'm Dead!" CD/LP/Track Review Rejoice! I'm Dead!
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 11, 2017
Read "Meditations on Freedom" CD/LP/Track Review Meditations on Freedom
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 11, 2017
Read "Garden 2nd Set" CD/LP/Track Review Garden 2nd Set
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 2, 2016
Read "Skronky Tonk" CD/LP/Track Review Skronky Tonk
by James Nadal
Published: June 18, 2016
Read "Angry Waves Vol.1&2" CD/LP/Track Review Angry Waves Vol.1&2
by Nicola Negri
Published: September 30, 2016
Read "This Is Trumpetology" CD/LP/Track Review This Is Trumpetology
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 17, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!