Renegade Radio's Dirty Words & Thoughts about Music

By Brian Wright-McLeod
News From Indian Country

Jimmy Wolf: A Tribute to Little Johnny Taylor [Independent]

The latest blues offering from Jimmy Wolf is an intensely soulful blast from a past tribute album of the music of Little Johnny Taylor. Taylor was born Johnny Lamont Merrett on February 11, 1943 in Gregory, Arkansas. He was active musically throughout the 1960s and ‘70s and recorded only sparingly during the 1980s and ‘90s. He continued to perform throughout America until his death on May 17, 2002.

Before moving into the blues, Taylor began performing in 1950, then later joined up with The Mighty Clouds of Joy, a traditional gospel group based in Los Angeles, California. His initial foray into recording began as an R&B artist with the Swingin’ record label. He is best known for his hit “Part Time Love” which went to Number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Charts in 1963. His second biggest song was “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” that made it to Number 10 on the R&B charts in 1971. In total, Taylor had seven chart positions throughout his career on the US Pop and R&B Singles Charts from 1963 to 1974.

Taylor was an artist who paid his dues in the clubs that were part of the Chitlin Circuit, the string of venues located throughout the eastern, southern, and upper mid-west areas of the United States that featured African American entertainers during the era of racial segregation that ended in the 1960s. Some of the more famous locations included the Royal Peacock in Atlanta, Georgia; the Carver Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama; the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater in New York City; and the Regal Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.

Wolf has been both a fan and a personal friend of Taylor’s and was inspired to record a tribute album to an inspirational artist. “Johnny was a friend,” Wolf said.  “We first met in 1987 at the BK Lounge in Rochester, New York.” The photos of Wolf and Taylor that are featured on the CD cover were taken in the club at different times over the years.

As time marched on in the later years of Taylor’s career, the glimmer began to fade. “We were talking about touring and recording together. There was some interest from folks in the UK but we could never get anything happening,” Wolf admitted.

“It was difficult for him to get the money that he was used to,” Wolf said, “even at the blues clubs because people didn’t know who he was up here. No booking agents seemed interested and there as just no luck booking him. Then, his health started failing and that was it.”

The catalyst for recording an album of Taylor’s original music came from a deep respect and admiration Wolf has for Taylor both as a human being and as a songwriter. “I always loved his songs and his singing,” he said. “I thought this was the best way to keep that dream we had alive. I wanted to see it though.”

And “see it through” he did. The ten-track disc burns like a wild fire as Wolf shakes out a delectable menu featuring such tasty little hotties such as “Zig Zag Lightning” from 1966, the chart-topping “Part Time Love” from 1963 and “Walking the Floor” from 1973.

 The arresting allure of Wolf’s burning guitar licks, sturdy vocals and a relentless energy that exudes every molecule of the blues magically channels the essence of Taylor’s legendary talent.

The band lineup includes Jimmy Wolf, guitar/vocals; Thomas Carter, bass; Joe Cummings, keys and Stephen Bender, drums.

The only omission was a good liner note insert detailing some of the history and background of Little Johnny Taylor and a little insight as to what inspired Jimmy Wolf to do the album. But that’s no excuse to keep you from grabbing a copy!

Contact info: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., JimmyWolf.com, facebook.com/Jimmy.Wolf1

Contact info for Johnny Taylor: Rt. 6, Box 149, Conway ARK 72032; 501-470-0044

Book Reviews

Long Powwow Nights! Iskewsis…Dear Mother [Red Deer Press], David Bouchard and Pam Aleekuk, paintings by Leonard Paul, music by Buffy Sainte-Marie (audio CD)

A charming book and CD combo titled Long Powwow Nights! Iskewsis…Dear Mother contains a bilingual text in English and Mi’kmaq. The paintings by Mi’Kmaq artist Leonard Paul are alive with color, composition and technique that perfectly conveys the essence of the story.

The audio CD, with a running time of nine-minutes and thirty-seven seconds, is good choice for radio programming or primary school room use. The long poetic verse pays homage to the memory of his mother as it is his tribute to the powwow mythos told through the tender memories of the author, David Bouchard. The English version is read by the Bouchard with sound effects and crisp production. With additional music by Graham Edwards, Edmund Bull and Buffy Sainte Marie perform her anthemic “Darlin’ Don’t Cry” which closes the CD.

The story is repeated in Mi’Kmaq with the translation read by Patsy Paul Martin for an additional running time of ten-minutes and nine-seconds.

Bouchard has written more than two-dozen award-winning books and Long Powwow Nights! is another contribution that sits at the top of the list.

Nikomis is My Teacher [Red Deer Press]. Written by David Bouchard, illustrated with the paintings of Cree artist Allen Sapp, the book is accompanied by an audio CD with powwow singing and drumming by Northern Cree. The story is read in English and Cree and was recorded by Bruce Cutknife and edited by Dennis Johnson. Sapp is a highly recognized painter from Western Canada whose work has been highly acclaimed for nearly four decades, his carefree style and form capture the essence of life on the land illuminated by a clear understanding of the subject matter.

Nikomis, My Teacher is a poem designed to be a conversation between a child (read by David Bouchard) and his grandmother (read by an uncredited performer). With hand drumming music in the background, the spirit of the text carries many of the misgivings children have about school, the world and nature – or at least in a stereotypical posture in the way this book is written. It has been widely consumed and recognized by many non-Natives. Northern Cree performs the round dance song “Red Skin Girl” for a total running time of seven-minutes and nineteen-seconds..

The program is repeated in Cree for a running time of ten-minutes.

www.fitzhenry.ca

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