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Robert Jr. Lockwood: Steady Rollin' Man

Nic Jones By

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Robert Jr. Lockwood: Steady Rollin' Man Guitarist Robert Jr. Lockwood had Robert Johnson not only as a stepfather but also as a guitar tutor. What Johnson couldn't have taught him, however, was how to come by ears big enough to take in the playing of Charlie Christian, but the fact that he did gives this music an edge it might otherwise have lacked. Where Lockwood could have fallen back on every blues cliché in the book, he instead produces lines of exceptional fluidity that are arguably as much a product of a jazz musician's sensibility as it's that of a dyed-in-the-wool bluesman.

Recorded in 1970, this was remarkably Lockwood's first session as a leader, and it makes for deeply satisfying listening. His guitar work, by comparison with his efforts on Walking The Blues (Candid, 1972) and Otis Spann Is The Blues (Candid, 1960), both cut under Spann's leadership on the same day in 1960, has here a mellow edge informed perhaps by the passing of years.

Happily however it doesn't dilute his fervor on the likes of "Mean Red Spider," where he shows just why he was the right choice for one of the guitar places on Sonny Boy Williamson's Nine Below Zero (Indigo, 2006), recorded in the same period as the Spann dates referred to above. His evocation of the Mississippi delta in the intro is also more than timely, reminding listeners of that place even in the midst of his big city sophistication, two considerations that are pleasingly reconciled on both takes of "Lockwood's Boogie."

Whilst Lockwood's voice might lack a certain authority, its edge of world-weariness on "Ramblin' On My Mind" is far more apt than any amount of polish, especially when his guitar meshes with that of Louis Myers' in a manner that could almost be telepathic.

That area of Mississippi comes to mind again on "Kind-Hearted Woman," where Lockwood muses lyrically on one of the great preoccupations of the blues over a bed of guitars, bass and drums that's clearly the product of countless sessions together and the empathy that those have engendered.

All in all, the title of this one just about sums it up, and by way of underscoring the point there is a fundamental honesty to this music that simply doesn't seem to be out there these days. It could just be one of the many things that makes it so special.

Track Listing: Steady Rollin

Personnel: Robert Jr. Lockwood: vocals, guitar; Louis Myers: guitar; Dave Myers: bass; Fred Below: drums.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Delmark Records | Style: Blues


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