Jef Lee Johnson

Blue

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The first album by New York-based avant blues rocker Jef Lee Johnson is very nearly a one-man tour de force. He plays everything except a few bass parts, produced, and even took the cover photos himself -- but unlike many similar projects, 1995's Blue has the looseness and vitality of a full-band record. Jumping from quirky pop songs like the title track to a couple of pretty acoustic interludes and a big batch of R&B-inflected, noise-tinged guitar blues like the closing feedback freak-out "Jungle, Pt. II," Johnson takes his cues both from contemporaries like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to those dissimilar but equally influential '80s New York scene gods Material and Sonic Youth. Highlights include the sneering, Was (Not Was)-meets-Steely Dan "A Little Too Much for Hollywood," the very definition of a musical backhanded compliment, and the almost Beatlesque sunny pop of "Feels So Fine." Varied and often exceptional, Blue is an impressive debut.

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