Luther Snakeboy Johnson, Get Down To The Nitty Gritty

Michael Azerrad

By Michael Azerrad

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

"A bedroom without a woman," declares Luther "Snakeboy" Johnson, "is just like a heart that don't have no beat." Man, that's one thing about the blues — it doesn't mince words. I'll admit I was drawn to this album because I just had to check out anything by someone named "Snakeboy," and I was not disappointed. This is for fans of the skeletal, trancey blues of Junior Kimbrough, even if it's a little faster, fancier and funkier.

One of the last live sets that this Chicago bluesman would ever put to tape.

On the Chicago-style Get Down to the Nitty Gritty, Mr. Johnson — who was a mainstay of Muddy Waters 'mid-'60s band and passed away in 1976, the year this live date in Rochester, NY, was recorded — plays standards like "Got My Mojo Working" and "Hoochie Coochie Man" with the deep soul they require. It's hard to think of a more aptly named album. And the groove this deft band lays down is deep — the drummer plays so far behind the beat, it sounds like he showed up after the gig was over. What makes a groove anyway? I suppose someone could analyze it with a computer and figure out what makes a great one — or they could just pull up a frosty one, kick back and listen to this album — "Lonesome in My Bedroom" is a devastating slow blues, and Johnson's guitar solo on the epic "Long Distance Call" will flash-fry anything within 100 yards.