Lonnie Johnson

The Essential [Classic Blues]

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Lonnie Johnson was arguably the first guitar gunslinger and, throughout his prolific 40-year career, he was continually amazing as a player, having single-handedly invented the concept of the lead guitar solo, both in a country blues context and in jazz settings (he worked with both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, for example), and his playing pre-shadowed the work of Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker, and many others. This two-disc set collects nearly 40 of his early blues sides, re-mastered from the original 78s. Johnson was a fine vocalist and a competent writer, but what is most striking on these tracks is the sheer speed, timing, skill, and dexterity of his acoustic guitar playing, and it is no wonder that recordings like "Playing With the Strings" are said to have influenced master guitarists like Django Reinhardt. It doesn't really matter where you dip into this collection, the playing is stunning, but try "Playing With the Strings," "Woke up With the Blues in My Fingers," "Lonesome Ghost Blues," or the sophisticated guitar and fiddle interplay on "Memphis Stomp."

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