Super Chikan

Blues Come Home to Roost

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As far as debuts go, the one from James "Super Chikan" Johnson is one of the most auspicious and accomplished of modern times. Recorded in Clarksdale, MS -- about as close to a home as blues has -- it covers the bases, from the sophisticated soulful swing of "Crystal Ball Eyes" to the funk of "Super Chikan Strut" and the Mississippi pride of "Down in the Delta" (albeit with a bayou rhythm). Unlike so many bluesmen, however, Super Chikan doesn't always take himself too seriously -- he's not averse to crowing like a rooster, or throwing in a self-deprecatory chicken scratch on the guitar, or the overbearing mama of "Mama & the Chillen." In addition to being a very solid, occasionally inspired, writer (as on the soul "service" history of "Captain Love Juice"), he's a very decent vocalist, and a guitarist who tends to hide his light under a bushel, rarely unleashing his talents, which is a shame, because the ability is there. When he does get (semi-) properly serious, on the slow-jam "Bleeding From the Heart," he shows himself following classic footsteps, a Chicago wail tempered by a Delta heart that simply oozes the blues in every note and syllable. More than simply a novelty act, Super Chikan is part of the great lineage of American blues music, and proof that the blues is very much still alive and kicking -- thankfully.

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