Lonnie Johnson, Lonnie Johnson Vol. 2 1940 – 1942

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The debonair Mr. J was the first modern guitarist; he obliterated perceived differences between blues and jazz and influenced every significant 20th-century guitarist from Django Reinhardt to B.B. King. He helped write the book on single-string solos, vibrato and bent notes while creating a warm, luxurious tone by doubling his top two or three guitar strings (like a 12-string guitar does with all six strings). He was also a savvy pop balladeer, roughing up his vocals with a judicious amount of grit. The New Orleans native recorded with everyone from Armstrong and Ellington to Virginia Spivey. These two volumes catch him emerging from a five-year Depression hiatus to re-establish his name. The solo "Swing Out Rhythm" more than does that. "That's Love" showcases his sophisticated way with a ballad, though he's never far from blues roots on tracks like "Jersey Belle Blues" and the snarling "Lazy Woman Blues."