Johnny "Guitar" Watson

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This generous serving of 28 tracks focuses on Watson's mid-1950s recordings (both released and unissued) for RPM, throwing in some songs by singers Devonia Williams, Jeannie Barnes, and Crodella de Milo (on whose songs he was accompanist); a couple of 1957-58 singles for Keen; and some previously unavailable tracks he recorded for Johnny Otis, probably dating from the late 1950s and early 1960s. This is worthwhile for fans of Watson in particular as well as fans of the R&B-blues crossover sound of the '50s in general. It's a patchy set, however, in which Watson and his associates try on several different styles for size, but not always with memorable success. Watson's stinging guitar is satisfying on cuts like "Hot Little Mama," and one can tell that it was probably played at a volume that challenged the limitations of 1950s engineering technology; but his playing is sometimes less to the fore in the arrangement than is desirable. For the most part, the material is adequate but not exciting. Sometimes it follows the lead of Watson's avowed hero Ray Charles, while other times it is shaded with doo wop and New Orleans R&B. On the Keen tracks he ventures into Larry Willliams-styled rock; on "Gangster of Love" (one of the standouts on the disc), he accomplishes swinging and boasting first-person-narrative blues. The tunes certainly aren't as impressive as the instrumental skills of Watson and the RPM/Modern house bands overseen by Maxwell Davis. Among the tracks, one will find the 1956 single "Three Hours Past Midnight" -- a slow blues that, according to the liner notes, the teenaged Frank Zappa considered "his number one record which had a big influence on his own guitar playing."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:43 Spotify
2 2:39 Spotify
3 2:58 Spotify
4 3:19
5 2:42 Spotify
6 2:32 Spotify
7 2:34 Spotify
8 2:54 Spotify
9 2:40 Spotify
10 2:59 Spotify
11 2:21 Spotify
12 3:04 Spotify
13 2:54 Spotify
14 2:53 Spotify
15 2:25 Spotify
16 3:25 Spotify
17 2:07 Spotify
18 2:39
19
3:04
20 1:59
21 2:43
22 2:41
23
2:12
24 2:34
25 1:46
26 2:35
27 2:10
28 1:45
blue highlight denotes track pick