These Old Nites
One of the Top Ten Albums of 2004 - Greg Vandy, host of KEXP's Roadhouse ----------------- The Stranger (11-18-2004) ROOTS & AMERICANA by Kurt B. Reighley Unless you've started attending church in hopes of better understanding the overlords of our nation (which my Canadian colleagues now call 'Jesusland'), waking before noon on Sunday isn't too appealing. But if you're a diehard soul music lover, you probably make the effort, setting your alarm (and the coffee maker) to go off at 9:00 a.m. on the Sabbath, just in time to catch KEXP's Preachin' the Blues program, hosted by Johnny Horn. Since the late '80s, when he moved here from Nashville, TN, Horn has been one of the busiest (and least attention-hungry) proponents on the Seattle scene, as a DJ, session musician, producer, you-name-it. His resumé includes stints with the Defenders, the Notables, and Sub Pop's underrated indie-rock-cum-hiphop ensemble, Evil Tambourines. His best-known project, Hi-Fi Killers, released several fine platters in the late '90s that fused reggae and hiphop with blaxploitation-era soul, funk, and, yes, even disco. The common thread running through his discography is 'a deep connection to rhythm and blues tradition,' according to Horn. 'Reggae is at least half R&B, the hiphop samples are of obvious origin, and even the Evil Tambourines was very funky.' Horn's latest outing is These Old Nites (on Purefire Records), under the moniker Junior Jackson, peddling what he calls Swamp-Soul: 'That late-night kind of music that has Southern roots, a strong beat with a deep swing, and elements of rock 'n' roll, soul, the blues, and country.' The 12-track set kicks off with 'Charmed,' a mesmerizing mix of muted beats and gravelly vocals, incanting a love spell concocted with common household objects: Green onions, garlic, old valentines, playing cards. With it's New Orleans shuffle and stinging blues licks, 'Rode Hard' recalls the subtle menace of Dr. John or a young Tom Waits. The lyrics are pointed ('Poor Man' pokes pins in our 'cracker president/country and corny'), full of vibrant images and characters; 'The Guitar Man' stars a fellow with a 'lower voice than Lou Rawls' and, um, endowment 'like an elephant trunk,' while 'Trapping' is sure to rankle PETA supporters. The aim, Horn says, was to meld 'engaging storytelling, disappointed love blues, and rural themes,' and pepper the results with 'rodents, bugs, broken hearts, destructive drinking, and old memories.' In concert, Junior Jackson perform as a quartet, with Horn on guitar and lead vocals, John 'Foot' Rodde on drums, Jim Tillman (Love Battery) on bass, and additional guitars by either Matt Nims (Lushy) or--dig this--Lynval Golding of the Specials/Fun Boy Three fame. You can check them out this Wednesday at the Tractor, opening for Florida colleagues MOFRO. Scribble it on your calendar, though, because Horn won't be plugging it on Preachin'. 'Politically, it's a little funny being an on-air DJ who releases music,' he admits. 'I am not able to directly mention my paying gigs on the show, and I'm encouraged not to overplay my own music.' No worries, Johnny--once the people discover These Old Nites, they'll undoubtedly do it for you. ----------------- Whisperin and Hollerin by Adam Harrington Every once in a while a CD arrives in the pile that simply defies description. Usually it's something truly avant garde. But Junior Jackson's 'These Old Nites' is not that extreme; however, it isn't normal, either. Using blues as a foundation, Jackson dusts off genre cliches for a contemporary refashioning on classic American musical forms. The biggest difference is in the beats, such as on 'Charmed,' with it's insistent drums. Jackson's half-spoken, half-sung dialogue recalls everyone from Lou Reed to MC 900 Ft Jesus. Jackson is actually a pseudonym for Johnny Horn, best known for his work with the Hi-Fi Killers. As Jackson, Horn is able to cut loose with a garden's variety of stylistic influences - blues, country, hip-hop, jazz - without sounding like a gimmick. The closest comparison that can be made is to Tom Waits, and the asphalt vocals on 'Rode Hard' reveal that inspiration. Despite it's genre-bending eclectic brew, 'These Old Nites' evokes a consistent mood - that of a drunken, somber late evening at a pub, the rain falling down, crumbled matchbook with lipstick in hand. 'Crying Feeling' is certainly the perfect track when you're feeling alone and completely intoxicated, and I can see it becoming quite popular with the regulars. 'These Old Nites' is an original work, taking a reverential nod to the past while viewing the future with unwavering eyes. ----------------- Seattle's Johnny 'Guitar' Horn plays the hard blues, Junior Jackson is funk, soul, gripping Apr 06 '05 Five Stars out of Five Stories of the Griot The original home of the blues was tended to in West Africa by the Griots. These were families that held and maintained music and musical story telling traditions - good times, bad times you know they've seen their share. The Griots are still alive and kicking, part musician, part shaman, part wizard - they are a committed for life to passing the stories on from generation to generation. The blues came from Black, southern America - those stories being passed down through the same oral and musical tradition. The blues today is still full of that, although the ideas and the messages have gotten diluted over time. They are a blues band Junior Jackson is a band that is rich in the blues story telling tradition. The playing is amazing, the musical foundations are sound and fully amped - but the stories are sad, hilarious and sometimes even true. Junior Jackson is a band led by Seattle's own Johnny 'Guitar' Horn (Hi Fi Killers, Notables, Militant Rhythm Section). His guitar playing and song writing are right on time, and you can catch them gigging this summer at the Hwy 99 Blues Club here in Seattle, first Wednesday of every month. They play the blues real nice. Their debut album on Purefire Records (can we all say Seattle Indie?), and it is a strong debut. So listen to the stories and let the feel of a hot southern girl wash over you, smell the fat back and the collards cooking. Hell, Junior even includes a hard-core country recipe book from his auntie in the Deep South. There is even a recipe for cooking with breast of crow. The Songs and Stories 1. Charmed A very funny story about a man who 'gets a charm on his girl', and then lists off the many ways to have a charm. Some of them are hilarious, 'take a valentine and cut it upside down', 'say her name backwards seven times', and on and on. The mix is downright spooky, nighttime with a lot of mysterious sounds. It all works out, he wants her so bad, and she falls for him hard - and then he finds that he doesn't want her after all....yikes. 2. Rode Hard This is a Tennessee/Oklahoma groove if ever I heard it. JJ Cale eat your heart out. The guitar is very tasty, doubled in places - and the sound is fat and warm. The story is, well you guessed it, about a woman who is a little jaded. It's always nice to share a bottle on a cold night. 3. These Old Nites Here is another old, sad story about a man who lost his girl. He ended up out in the country, living off of what he could grow. It is entirely possible that this weary old country boy is selling a bag or two of what he grows. The track is clean and easy. The sax solo by Stuart MacDonald (Emerald City Jazz Orchestra, Evil Tambourines) is soulful and flows. 4. Poor Man A reaction to the Bush Years, there can be no doubt. It is a crazy world when we live in the Republican's dream of life, and the poor man can't get a shake. The guitar throughout reminds me a tremendous amount of the Beatles Get Back, the mellow sound and even the flow. The lyrics are whispered and harsh. 5. Crying Feeling The Crying Feeling is ripped right out of real life. Imagine you are home and your ex wife gets together with your current room mate and they want to party. It's a mean spirited scenario, but exactly the kind of world Junior Jackson wants us to visit. The guitar lines are spare and meaningful, the bass and drums are way behind the beat. This is a laid back groove. And Kudos to Johnny Horn for using the phrase 'The Heebie Jeebies' in the lyrics of this song, kind of reminded me of growing up in hippie 60s L.A. 6. Trapping Trapping is about pickin' up a honey - they looking for exotic skins, looking for some fur, yeah they're going out trapping. The wah-wah Fender solo in the intro is outstanding. The lyrics are pretty hot, and the voice is quiet and sexy - it's a dude song, and yet not so much. The guitar lines weave their way in and out of the singing like a slow, caramel slalom. 7. The Bear Here is the albums shuffle, complete with walking guitar and bass lines. The vocals are low and gravelly. It sounds like this is Junior singing after smoking a pack or two. With this one we are treated to a fused out guitar solo from a juke and boogie joint. It sounds like the same kind of rig Johnny Lee Hooker used, tidy but strange. The guitar is nice. 8. My Down Home Girl Here is a walking bass line with some B.B.esque guitar lines laid down. Gentle horn parts start out the tune and lead the way. The story is yet another girl. This is about a Cajun/Seminole woman; she is probably from Nawlins or there abouts. It is a hard-core tune. The guitar solos are Junior-trading fours with Johnny and it rocks right down to the ground. 9. The Guitar Man This is the fast driving tale of the guitar man, 'my man is stone black.' He is touring up and down all three coasts - amazing lyrics and a good time is had by all. 10. Below the Belt The slow burning mixture of sadness and grief, this is a song about being misunderstood. They are outlaws 'below the belt' - which may give you an indication of the kind of criminals inhabit this band. They are gangsters of love. This song is a not so subtle dig at those dudes who just don't control it. There have to be some rules, some etiquette, some understanding among men's men. You don't mess with every girl - and you never, ever mess with your friend's girl. Otherwise somebody ends up bloody. 11. Charmed (Original Mix) Here we have a different mix of Charmed, a quieter less dramatic soundscape. The story is the same and just as funny, just a little more subdued. 12. Frostbit Frostbit is the ending tune, and the real question. Can you reheat your heart after so much pain and suffering? When your insides, your very soul itself starts to lose feeling and things start having t be cut off, what can you do. The guitar lines reflect the pain, show out the grief that is at the core of this music. From the heart The stories are amazing, not unusual, but right on the money. The highlight of this album really is the gentle guitar, there are times when it feels like Eric Gale is hooked up with Bonnie Raitt and they gave birth to Johnny. The music moves at times, but the greatest cuts are the ones that let him solo and shine on. Catch them the first Wednesday night of each month this summer at Seattle's blues club 'Hwy 99.'