Jimmy Johnson

Pepper's Hangout

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It's always sad when, for whatever reason, a worthwhile recording goes unreleased for a long time -- and that's exactly what happened with Pepper's Hangout. On March 29, 1977, a 48-year-old Jimmy Johnson entered a Chicago studio and recorded what was meant to be his first studio LP as a leader. The LP had a working title of "Chicago Roots," and Living Blues editor Jim O'Neal was hired to write the liner notes. But regrettably, an album that should have come out in 1977 wasn't released in the U.S. until 2000, when Delmark was finally able to release the session as Pepper's Hangout. Better late than never -- this CD finds Johnson in fine form and makes one wish that the singer/guitarist hadn't waited until his late 40s to record some albums. Though Johnson includes one soul number (Eddie Jones' "The Things I Used to Do"), this is a blues disc first and foremost -- and Johnson is as passionate and confident on Robert Higginbotham's "High Heel Sneakers" and Tony Hollins' "Married Woman Blues" as he is on original material like "Looking for My Baby" (which inspires comparison to Buddy Guy's "Hello, San Francisco") and the instrumental "Pepper's Hangout." Delmark, to its credit, provides two sets of liner notes: O'Neal's original notes from 1977 and some new ones that he wrote 23 years later in October 2000. Without question, the release of this session in the U.S. was long overdue.

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