Captain Hook

It’s John Lee Hooker.

To be honest, I don’t know what else needs to be said, especially if you’re a true fan of Detroit blues. What’s more — and this is directed straight at the Detroit blues community — this is the reissued stuff from way back in the Paradise Valley days before the Valley was paved over in the name of “progress” by I-75. Included on this extremely important CD are a treasure trove of groundbreaking blues songs, several of which are previously unreleased. All songs were recorded by John Lee Hooker back when he was still a struggling Detroit musician working his regular shift sweeping the floors at the auto plant. This was just before the “Boogie Chillun” phenomenon broke through and set him on the road toward his current status as Blues Royalty.

For those who only recently have become acquainted with the Hook (possibly through his work with Carlos Santana on The Healer or any of the younger musicians from other corners of the music universe he’s worked with), it might be worth your while to check out this collection. It portrays who the man was before the repackaging began in an effort to make his blues more palatable — and marketable — to a newer, younger generation of listeners. This is not at all to criticize Hooker’s more recent work, but only to emphasize the importance of understanding where the road began and all its twists and turns before marveling at where it wound up.

Keith A. Owens is a Detroit-based freelance writer and musician. E-mail him at [email protected].

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