Wednesday, August 18, 1999

Old-hand

Posted By on Wed, Aug 18, 1999 at 12:00 AM

It’s hard not to like the sound of John Lee Hooker. As he enters the eighth decade of life, musicians half his age are still scrambling to record with the man. Listening to such recent albums as The Healer, where he recorded great-sounding compositions with such artists as Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt, it can be easy to forget that this is the same man who got his start in Detroit more than 50 years ago.

In the midst of all the well-deserved media hype, which has managed to portray Hooker as proof that your cool doesn’t leave you just because you get old, it’s easy to forget the stripped-down sound that started it all – the sound you’ll hear on this CD. In an attempt to attract a wider audience, Hooker’s modern sound has been packaged and produced to a pristine perfection. Even though his voice and guitar maintain that raw edge, the production surrounding him usually manages to smooth those edges down to a suburban, grit-free comfort level.

Anyone who wants to know the truth about John Lee Hooker’s sound needs to hear a CD like this. Sittin’ Here Thinkin’ was originally cut during the 1950s with an unknown rhythm section that includes a second guitar, bass and drums. These songs are pure, uncut Hooker. Standard forms be damned. All that mattered was whether the song said what Hooker wanted said the way he wanted it said. It was blues because he said so.

Now that’s blues power.

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