Junior Watson

If I Had a Genie

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Too bad guitarist Junior Watson isn't as prolific as he is talented. This is only his second solo album and it comes eight years after his first. Regardless, it's nearly an hour's worth of crackling jump blues, played and sung by a guy with chops to spare and a light enough vocal touch to make these 11 covers and three originals connect like the finest music from the '40s and '50s jazz/blues hipsters that have obviously influenced his style. Watson's own contemporaries, such as Rick Holmstrom, Jimmie Vaughan, and Kim Wilson, sing his praises for a good reason; his taste and tone recall the heavyweights of the jump genre without slavishly copying them. The guitarist chose to record this session entirely live in the studio. That's with no overdubs, even for the vocals. The environment allows him to connect to the material with a crisp immediacy, especially on an instrumental take of Pee Wee Crayton's "Blues After Hours." Saxist Baron Shul honks on his baritone and tenor horns like a man born half a century too late, and contributions from boogie-woogie piano master Gene Taylor on all but four tracks bring additional authenticity to the session. The set is peppered with obscure tunes from even more obscure artists such as Felix & His Hot Peppers, Woo Woo Moore, and Peppermint Harris, But Watson breathes new life into these dusty gems with a raw, rollicking approach that never feels studied or cramped. It makes for a rousing, upbeat, and swinging album that could just have well been recorded half a century earlier and is as close to a live date as you may ever get for this increasingly reclusive talent.

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