Jimmy Johnson

North/South

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Finally reissued on CD in 1999, nearly 20 years after its initial release, Jimmy Johnson's North/South is worth the wait for fans of electric Chicago blues with soul and rock influences. Probably named in tribute to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's epic East-West album (Butterfield's guitarist Michael Bloomfield had died just prior to the album's recording), North/South is third-generation Chicago blues, far enough removed from the music's gutbucket origins to seamlessly incorporate influences like Eddie Lusk's soulful clavinet on the opening "Country Preacher," but still connected enough to its roots that songs like "Can't Go No Further" and "A Woman Ain't Supposed to Be Hard" have the passion and soul sometimes missing from the smoother likes of Robert Cray. Other highlights include a swinging, funky instrumental, "Walking On Thin Ice," with excellent piano and guitar solos from Lusk and Johnson, and the syncopated R&B of "Sang a Song in Heaven"; songs that prove that a true bluesman doesn't have to be constrained by the genre's rules of authenticity, and can stretch the form without being a pop sell-out.

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