365 Days of Album Recommendations – Sep 27

John Lee Hooker – The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker


I may be in the minority in saying this, but I prefer John Lee Hooker acoustic. This album, recorded in 1959, is one of my very favorites—possibly my absolute favorite.

I first heard a recording of John Lee Hooker performing Tupelo Blues live from Newport, and I was transfixed.

I have heard this album derided for a) being a “forced” recording meant to pander to the burgeoning folk music revival audience, and b) exposing that John Lee was a less-than-competent guitarist. My opinion: reason “a” is irrelevant, because regardless of the motivation, the music speaks for itself. And reason “b” is stupid; because John Lee was exactly the best guitarist for his music, as this recording of Tupelo Blues makes amply clear.

I love this album for its mix of material, something I personally feel much of his later albums would suffer for. Here, he takes on a wide range of songs, many that take him far out of his patented “boogie” mode, including Leroy Carr’s immortal “How Long Blues,” Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake” (the latter he completely makes his own, to the extent that it probably shouldn’t even be considered Lemon’s song).

In addition to all the above, Hooker’s version here of “Bottle Up and Go” (by  Tommy McClennan originally, titled here as “Bundle Up and Go”) has to be considered canonical. And if you want to hear pure mojo in effect, check out “I Rowed A Little Boat.” If that don’t give you the chills, then I can’t do a thing for ya.

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