Thursday, August 20, 2009

Johnny Shines - Standing at the Crossroads (Testament, 1971)

Although bluesman Johnny Shines is remembered today as a running buddy of the famous Robert Johnson, he was actually much more than a fellow traveler. Shines grew up in Tennessee, soaking up the Beale Street sound in Memphis learning at the foot of Howlin' Wolf. He roamed depression era America for a couple of years in the mid 30's with Johnson, before settling down in Chicago. After leaving the music business to work in the construction trade, Shines began performing and recording again during the so-called "blues revival" of the 1960's. This recording finds him revisiting the Johnson years, playing in an evocative solo acoustic format and revisiting some of the older mans music. Shines music is haunting and provocative, whether he is remaking one of Johnson's most famous tunes as "Standing at the Crossroads" and playing the famous "Kind Hearted Woman." His own haunting "Drunken Man's Prayer" and slide guitar accents used on "It's a Low Down Dirty Shame" are chilling as well. Swinging through the classic blues standard "How Long" Shines sings with a rough dignity and compassion that few could match, accompanied by some nimble guitar playing. While it is doubtful that Shines will receive the kind of posthumous recognition that Johnson received, he was an excellent performer, who's contribution to the blues should not be forgotten.
Standing at the Crossroads -

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