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Friday, March 4, 2011

Big Head Todd & The Monsters

Big Head Blues Club: 100 Years of Robert Johnson (Ryko)

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The guest artists on this recording include B. B. King, Hubert Sumlin, Charlie Musselwhite, Cedric Burnside, David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Chris Goldsmith. Todd Park Mohr, founder of Big Head Todd and The Monsters, re-names his band Big Head Blues Club and membership includes the aforementioned artists who all have the secret password to Johnson's sound for the 21st century.

The challenge of an album such as this is to avoid duplicating the countless covers of Johnson's songs and, centrally, to get the stones out of its passway to the extent that Johnson's sound is not reproduced but rather interpreted.

Remarkably, because it has been done so many times, "Cross Road Blues" is the stand out success of all the songs on this album.  B. B. King's guitar lines take ghostly stabs at Mohr's eerie vocal and King adds his own call and response vocals with haunting conviction. The song is shaped very differently than any other version of it and captures the original essence without copying it.

But from "Come On In My Kitchen" to "Sweet Home Chicago," all 10 tracks are successful through originality and re-composition, without any loss of the supernatural force of the original Robert Johnson. His songs have become the very definition of what the blues must have been, still should be and, now, with 100 Years of RobertJohnson, viably can be in the present.

These 10 songs are not memories on this album but living performances that supersede any previous attempt to shuffle Johnson's marked deck. Big Head Blues Club plays a winning hand and the last fair deal has gone down.

Big Head Blues Club performs March 4 at Potowatomi.