John Lee Hooker. 1948-1951. Stripped down. Foot poundin’. Guitar plonking out a trance-line, then exploding into foreign, menacing noise. Whether they’re lines straight out of his head or he’s repurposing something he’s just heard on the radio, he stamps ’em with his late-night lonely moanin’ sound. Across these tracks, he already sounds old as the Mississippi–his recording career was just getting started, but he was already in his thirties.
Four discs, 100 tracks, played consecutively today and not a bored moment in my ear or brain, and that’s considering the man had three-four structural and rhythmic moves that he preferred to use repeatedly.
To cease with the waxin’ not particularly poetical, if you do happen to be looking for a way in to the world of John Lee Hooker, and you’re into buying material goods, the above set from JSP–the notes aren’t great, but the sound is stellar–will run you around $10 and it’s loaded with goodies: the original and often superior versions of Hooker masterpieces like “Crawling King Snake,” “Boogie Chillen,” “Sally Mae,” “Burnin’ Hell,” “Hobo Blues,” “House Rent Boogie,” and “I’m in the Mood,” plus great rarities like “No Mortgage on My Soul,” “Streets is Filled with Women,” and “Stomp Boogie.” The format is usually John Lee alone, and his stomping foot is miked up high. Maybe you don’t need all four discs, but every American home ought to contain a selection from this period of the artist’s life. On that note, enjoy the video (from about 15 years later):
Note: Living to Listen is hittin’ the fuckin’ road for 16 days starting just before dawn tomorrow. I may not be posting daily, but then again, last time I tried to stop I couldn’t. We’ll be traveling close to 5,000 miles by jalopy, so it might be reports from the road-trip playlist. But we’re listening to books, too, so it may not. Stay tuned!