By Greg Johnson
Johnny Burgin was well-established as a premier guitarist on the Chicago blues scene before he decided to relocate to the West Coast, first to the Bay Area and now in Portland. He built his reputation through outstanding recordings and inspired performances with many of the top-tier talent of the Windy City. Such a performance is nicely shown with his new recording, blending his Chicago background with some new found friends a couple thousand miles to the west.
Recorded at the Redwood Café in Cotati, California, Burgin displays terrific guitar work and vocals, backed by Kid Andersen on guitar and piano, harmonica ace Aki Kumar and a rhythm section of drummer Steve Dougherty and bassist Chris Matheos. If that isn’t worth the admission price alone, Johnny invited Blues Music Award nominated saxophonist Nancy Wright, Portland-based vocalist Rae Gordon, and blues legend Charlie Musselwhite to sit in.
The set list includes mostly newer songs written by Burgin, along with a couple numbers from the Earl Hooker and Robert Lockwood Jr songbooks. Playing with a group who doesn’t work together regularly is a challenge, but throw in new material and the night becomes a baptism by fire. And it works with amazing results. There is a certain magic here, especially with the collaborations between Musselwhite and Gordon.
This is everything that you would expect from a live recording featuring a cast of blues elite. But bear in mind, Johnny Burgin is the star attraction here and his guitar mastery and vocals are at once notable and in fine demonstration here. Fun and exciting, Johnny Burgin Live is something to be heard.
Total Time: 65:40
You Got To Make A Change / Can’t Make It Blues / She Gave Me The Slip / You’re My Trinket / The Leading Brand / I Got To Find Me A Woman / Late Night Date Night / You Took The Bait / Daddy’s Got The Personal Touch / Louisiana Walk / Blues Falling / California Blues / When The Bluesman Comes To Town / Jody’s Jazz