Unless you’re one of those longtime hardcore blues fans who takes pride in the amount of research you’ve done to find out the stuff few other blues fans know, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never heard of Jimmy Johnson. Chalk this one up to yet another of the best blues cats you woulda, shoulda heard of if not for the same damned reasons that so many worthy musicians never make it more than 10 paces past the starting gate, while so many more whom we could all do without — and be healthier for it — somehow manage to find themselves on world tours.
Anyway, I guess it’s useless to moan too loudly or too long about all those who-knows-how-many blues artists who have been overlooked, overstepped and bypassed. The numerous dusty, winding side roads pointing toward blues recognition are littered with them, and Jimmy Johnson unfortunately falls more or less in that category. Although Johnson has received sufficient recognition for his classic blues vocals and guitar skills to place him higher on the shelf than your average chitlin-circuit veteran, he nevertheless has had more than his fair share of experiences with “almost but not quite”: albums that were released years behind schedule, awards received late, recording sessions screwed up and on and on.
Nevertheless, despite the bumps in the road, Johnson’s skills are evident as one of that relative handful which practices the spare, tasteful old-style approach to the music, where every note is where it’s supposed to be and only the notes that are needed are heard.
Keith A. Owens is a Detroit-based freelance writer and musician. E-mail him at [email protected].