March 13th, 2008


J B Lenoir "If I Get Lucky"

J.B. Lenoir was a Chicago blues man who had very little commercial success before his death in 1967. I bought his album 'Crusade' on a high school orchestra trip, in Toronto, in 1974, and it was from the start one of the few Blues records I really love -- the other being the Robert Johnson recordings, and Blind Willie Johnson's work. Most Blues sounds rather samey to me, and has in my opinion devolved into show-biz now. But raw old acoustic blues can come in my house any time.

Lenoir's genius was that while was from the Mississippi Delta, and played the country blues as well as anyone, he didn't limit himself to just those blues gestures. He had an ear for melody that went beyond pure blues, and made each song fresh and original. If I Get Lucky is a prime example of what I mean. The guitar arrangement is fantastically spare, alternating between following the sung melody and chording. There's a clean delineation of different parts played on one instrument, reminding me of Bach's Unaccompanied Suites for ViolonCello.

This album is unique for including John Mayall's interviews with Ella Lenoir in her Champaign, Illinois home, in between the songs, and several tracks arise out of recorded conversations with Willie Dixon. The track above is my recording from the original vinyl. As near as I can tell, the Mayall interview album is out of print and unavailable on CD -- there are several other other CDs available that contain most of the same material.