Now's The Time
Published December 2013
These two vivid albums, recorded two years apart and three and five years ago respectively, display the mighty blues and soul-chops of Chicago’s (by way of South Carolina) very-popular Johnny Burgin, aka, Rockin Johnny.
After playing music since the early 90s, and after a seven-plus year’s hiatus from music, Rockin’ Johnny hit the comeback blues trail in 2009, and has been blistering the Chicago scene ever since.
The two LPs, one an indy and one from the major blues label Delmark, present a good look and listen to an artist whose tributes to others mark him as a student of the Chicago scene and a man whose loving tributes (over five recordings) to his musical fathers is clearly evident in most every groove.
His fealty to the many greats that inspired him are all over the 13-track “Now’s the Time.” The whole CD took an overnight session of only six hours to make… which is remarkable. Among the tunes covered are versions of titles written by Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, and Jimmy Dawkins and they butt-up to hard and creatively faithful versions of tunes by a host of somewhat lesser known, but no less worthy artists such as Luther Tucker and Willie James Lyons. (One cut, “Sweet Love” was recorded live at the famed Chicago nightclub, B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted in 2000. Now how’s that for going back?) Burgin also displays his song-writing skills on the slow burning title track, “Now’s the Time,” as well as the delightful “Walking the Dog” groove of the instrumental “Hippie Dance.”
On “Grim Reaper,” Rockin’ Johnny contributes four of the album’s 15-tracks. It’s a better sounding album, but just as vital and commanding as its 2010 predecessor. Big D’s harmonica adds tremendously to the slow blues title track, as well as to “One and One Ain’t Two.” Rockin’ Johhny’s guitar epitomizes the West and South-side Chicago sound. His guitar tone is a bit thin throughout, but it’s sound in no way makes the tunes less than biting and crucial.
One reviewer remarked on Rockin’ Johnny’s “economy” of playing, and that is an astute observation. No rock-star posing here, nor is it at all necessary as his original and cover tunes and guitar-chops are vital. His voice is just fine, and service the songs well, but most people will come away raving about his guitar playing and not necessarily his vocal interpretations.
His slow blues, of which there are thankfully a few, are marvelously crafted as interpreted by Burgin… just gritty stuff.
One looks forward to more of this man and his cohorts. Now that he’s back, we ought to do our best to support and keep him around for a long time to come.
By the way, Rockin’ Johnny will be playing at San Jose’s “Poor House Bistro” with everywhere-man Aki Kumar on February 15 of 2014. If you’re in the area, don’t miss that gig.