John-Alex Mason

Jook Joint Thunderclap

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It seems like ever since blues caught the attention of rock fans in the 1960s, its essence has drifted further and further away from its origins -- a basic, oftentimes one-person setup. But come the early 21st century, quite a few modern-day blues-rockers popped up who appeared hell-bent on returning blues-rock right back to the nitty-gritty. A case in point is John-Alex Mason and his 2011 release, Jook Joint Thunderclap. Serving as singer, guitarist, and drummer (the latter being a kick drum, to keep a basic beat), Mason calls on several guests to drop by and contribute djembe, balafon, and more traditional drums on a few tracks. However, the songs never drown in instrument overindulgence, as evidenced by such standouts as the rocking album-opener "My Old Lonesome Home" and the bare-bones "More Than Wind." And a couple of tracks ("Gone So Long" and "Riding On") include a guest appearance by R.L. Burnside's grandson, Cody Burnside, who offers some hip-hop rhymes. But don't worry, it all fits the songs fine -- no ill-advised attempts at trying to fit a square peg in a round hole here. In modern times, it appears as though most mainstream rock artists have forgotten about the charming quality of making an honest-to-goodness live-sounding recording. Thankfully, Mason hasn't forgotten, and uses it to his advantage throughout Jook Joint Thunderclap.

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