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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Richard Johnston 2002 Foot Hill Stomp

Genre: Blues
Rate: 320 kbps CBR / 44100
Time: 00:46:19
Size: 106,03 MB

United States

Fully capable of performing as a one-man band, Richard Johnston is an anomaly in the music industry. After having Robert Johnson songs imbedded into his subconscious mind by his roommate while attending college in California, he started to learn the open tunings of the delta bluesmen. Naturally, this meant that his next move was to. Japan, where he played for several years before returning to the US and the Memphis TN/North Mississippi area in particular. It was in Memphis where he won the prestigious 17th Annual Blues Foundation's International Blues Talent Competition and captured the Albert King Award for the most promising guitar player in the competition at the same time. (The first double crown in seventeen years.) Since then, he has played in three countries and been seen on national television in two of them. He has had his name in print in blues society newsletters all over the world and has accomplished all of this on his own, without a record or a recording contract.

Ever wary of record companies, their oftentimes dubious financial practices and dark clouds of forced commercialization and potential loss of personal integrity looming over them, Richard has carried his musical soul through the maze of record company promises and deception with his focus directed on the music and his fans. Untouched and unfettered by the constraints of a faceless money hungry musical Godzilla, "Foot Hill Stomp" is Richard Johnston's musical vision captured on CD FTRC.

Loaded with standards from the North Mississippi Hill Country, the locomotive power of "Foot Hill Stomp" has the raw rhythmic drive of a primal entity that will infuse itself into the dark primitive recesses of your primordial senses. Possessing a voice that is "at times" somewhat reminiscent of a young Billy Gibbons, (... should I say that? Listen to "Come On In"). Richard has the vocal ability to do a solid job singing and his multi-instrumental prowess is exceptional. He pulls off the complicated NMHC style with apparent ease, as well as the approval of the legendary Jessie Mae Hemphill, who accompanies Richard with the tambourine on several of the songs and shares writing credits and sings with him on "Chicken and Gravy." This familiarity with the North Mississippi Hill Country style (The Hemphill family, Eli Green, Fred McDowell, Rainey Burnette, Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside .) came about when he was immersed in the scene after joining the "Soul Blues Boys" (Junior's band) and literally began performing the hill country music while he learned it in what he has called, "...the best period of my life."

His years as a North Mississippi Hill Country blues journeyman and Beale Street performer have paid off and he has now caught up with himself as is evidenced here on "Foot Hill Stomp." The CD begins with the infectious "Miss Maebelle," a song written by Rainey Burnette, made famous by R.L. Burnside, and re-arranged here by Richard. The driving groove created at the beginning is almost reminiscent of a Chuck Berry styled song before it morphs into a "Shake "Em On Down" motif. Next is the classic Junior Kimbrough song, "Do the Romp." With it's own laid back pulse, Richard, Mark Simpson, and Tony Ray Adams hold the primal urging of the original deep rhythm, raw and intact. "Do the Romp" is followed by another traditional song Richard learned from Mr. Burnette titled, "Coal Black Mattie and two more Junior Kimbrough songs (with a few traditional parts), all rearranged by Richard. He subsequently breaks down R.L. Burnside's, "Come On In" to a raw and raucous state with Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms blowing a pseudo "Led Zeppelin" sounding harp (i.e. "When the Levee Breaks") and the self-taught and imaginative Cedric Burnside sitting in with his expressive drumming. (Cedric plays drums on "Come On In" and "Work Me Baby" while Robert plays harp on "Come On In" and "Miss Maebelle.")

On the seventh of the nine songs, Jessie Mae Hemphill joins Richard on the tambourine and vocal encouragement for a speeded up version of Rev. Robert Wilkins, "That's No Way To Get Along." Following this is "The Shaggy Hound," which is credited to Do-Boy Diamond. This title and credit is confusing because Richard begins with several phrases from Do-Boy's "Going Away Blues" and continues with phrases from other traditional songs. (.And perhaps a line or two of his own) Meanwhile his accompanying music is nothing like "The Shaggy Hound," "Going Away Blues," or any other Do-Boy Diamond song I could find. Actually, the only similarity I noticed with Do-Boy's "The Shaggy Hound" is a single lyrical phrase near the end of the song. (All of this is really a moot point anyway because it's still a great tune, regardless of the writing credit.)

A special treat concludes "Foot Hill Stomp" when the illustrious Jessie Mae Hemphill joins in on the vocals. While her post-stroke voice isn't quite as strong as it used to be, her glowing inner spark is still alive and well and it's a pleasure to hear her again as she states at the end of the song, ".No, I wasn't through!"

Richard Johnston's "Foot Hill Stomp," is a barefoot rompin' stompin' rhythmic journey through the Hill Country of North Mississippi and the credits read like a "Who's Who" of local legends. Richard definitely has his pulse on the primal locomotive energy and ragged guttural country drive of the music and it explodes off the tracks like a thunderous train. Richard 's excellent vocals are blended with his versatile musicianship as he integrates his own musical influences with those from the Hill Country. Among the instruments he plays are the foot drums, the resonator guitar with his own built in electric scratch plate, the washboard, a bass guitar, a regular guitar, and a Lowe Bow - Hill Harp. The inventor of the Lowe Bow brand, John Lowe, and Richard Johnston designed the Lowe Bow - Hill Harp. The Hill Harp is this particular model's name and is a diddley-bow type stringed instrument that looks like two broomsticks sticking out of a cigar box. One neck has a bass string and the other neck has three strings for a fretless bass/baritone guitar. Each neck has it's own pickup with the bass neck plugged into a bass amp and the other neck into a guitar amp. (This review is copyright © 2002 by Stephen T. Davidson, and Blues On Stage at:


01 - Miss Maebelle 04:38

02 - Do The Romp 05:23

03 - Coal Black Mattie 04:00

04 - Catfish Blues/I Feel Good Little Girl 06:00

05 - Work Me Baby 07:01

06 - Come On In 05:15

07 - That's No Way To Get Along [W Jesse Mae Hemphill] 03:26

08 - The Shaggy Hound [W Jesse Mae Hemphill] 05:41

09 - Chicken And Gravy [W Jesse Mae Hemphill] 04:55

Richard Johnston here:



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He is the best

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