Search - Lonnie Johnson :: He's a Jelly Roll Baker

He's a Jelly Roll Baker
Lonnie Johnson
He's a Jelly Roll Baker
Genres: Blues, Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: Lonnie Johnson
Title: He's a Jelly Roll Baker
Members Wishing: 2
Total Copies: 0
Label: RCA
Release Date: 9/29/1992
Genres: Blues, Jazz, Pop
Styles: Delta Blues, Traditional Blues, Acoustic Blues
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 078636606422, 078636606446

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CD Reviews

One of the best albums of any kind I have heard
Tony Thomas | SUNNY ISLES BEACH, FL USA | 10/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I had hundreds of lps, nearly a thousand tapes, and now a couple hundred CDs. This is certainly one of the best ones I have ever had. Many may be familiar with the Crowing Rooster Blues and Milk Cow Blues that were released on the RCA Bluebird Blues sampler in the 1960s. The music here only gets better. This is the acme of acoustic Blues. Johnson is accompanied by Lil Hardin Armstrong on a swinging piano, and elsewhere by a good rhytmn guitarist. His remarkable bluesy riffs, arpegios, and lyric figures were never so bluesy. His voice is both witty, wry, and strong. You get real insights into life in the Black ghettos of Chicago in the 1940s, one of the best world war two songs I have ever heard, and some great bluesy ballads. Johnson was clearly the most important acoustic blues guitarist and singer and was a founder of Jazz guitar, much more famous and influential in the Black blues world than Robert Johnson (In fact Robert rigorously studied and tried to imitate Lonnie's playing, and even told people that he was Lonnie's cousin). Get this record and you will be happy and wonder how you ever lived without it."
Lonnie Johnson's Urban Blues
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 04/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Lonnie Johnson (1899? -- 1970) was a highly successful bluesman during the course of his long career. Yet today his urbane, sophisticated sound does not get the attention that it merits. This CD, "He's a Jelly Roll Baker" includes 20 songs Lonnie Johnson recorded in Chicago between 1939 and 1944 for the Bluebird label of RCA. The CD makes a good complement to a CD of Johnson's earliest recordings, dating from 1925 to 1932, "Steppin' on the Blues" available on Columbia's "Roots N Blues" Series. The "Stepppin' on the Blues" CD features Johnson in a variety of styles, but it emphasizes his skills as a guitarist.

Between 1932 and 1939, Johnson made few recordings. He performed occasionally in clubs but made his living as a factory worker. (Late in life, Johnson was to work again as a doorman at a Phiadelphia hotel.) In 1939, Johnson moved to Chicago, performed steadily and with great success in nightclubs, and made the recordings included on this CD.

The CD "He's a Jelly Roll Baker" emphasizes Johnson's smooth suave singing style. Johnson's lyrics describe life in the growing African American communities of Chicago and other large cities as he sings of love and betrayal, loneliness, and, in the song "Chicago Blues" trying to make one's way in a world of cynicism, greed and indifference. Many of these songs are delivered in an uptempo, lively style creating a sense of irony and tension between the lyrics and the music that is characteristic of the blues. Johnson sings with a highly fluid jazz-influenced rhythm and is frequently ahead of the beat of his instrumental accompaniment.

Johnson was known for tough, unsentimental lyrics and for songs with more than a hint of misogyny. The song "Nothing but a Rat" describes in the harshest terms Johnson's contempt for a man who has moved in with the family of the protagonist of the song and stolen his wife. The song "Watch Shorty" tells of a mover who unfailingly suceeds in stealing the women of other men. Many songs feature extended solo guitar breaks by Johnson, playing on a single string, including "That's Love", "Lazy Woman Blues", "I did all I could" among others. Several of the songs also feature a rolling blues piano played by Lil Armstrong.

My favorite song on this CD is Johnson's signature piece, "The Loveless Blues" ("Careless Love") performed here by Johnson alone in a smooth singing style with brief guitar interludes.
I also enjoyed the ballad-style slower paced songs, including the elegant "That's Love", "I did all I could", and "In love again." These songs, sentimental, suave and showing the influence of Vaudeville, show Johnson in a different light than the harsher more earthy lyrics of many of his other songs. Finally, I enjoyed Johnson's famous recording of "Crowing Rooster Blues" which sings raucously of the plight of the working-man in the city and of unfaithfulness.

The blues have been enjoying a deserved revival in American consciousness for the past several years. Listeners wanting to understand and explore the blues will enjoy getting to know the artistry of Lonnie Johnson.

Robin Friedman