Over the course of more than two decades Long John Baldry has moved in and out of folk, blues, rock, pop, and pap. His associations have included Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Mick Jagger, Elton John and Rod Stewart. Last night an appreciative Cellar Door audience was treated to a solo acoustic set by him because his equipment truck had broken down en route from Pittsburgh.
When he talks, his diction and accent are of his native England. But when he turns to song, his timbre becomes gravelly, his inflection that of the Delta bluesman.
On Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Blackwater Blues" Baldry's guitar rained down heartbreak as his voice traveled from bass to falsetto and back. Some kept time on tabletops to his rendering of the Rev. Gary Davis' "Cocaine." His own composition "Maggie Bell" needed, by his own admission, bottle neck accompaniment, but it still came off nicely without it. One should note that he had not sung some of this material for years.
Tonight, in his final appearance at Cellar Door, joined by Kathi McDonald and Roy Young, Long John Baldry will perform in a rock persona and in an amplified context, but if he wants to do his audience right, he will devote some of his stage time to accoustic delivery of traditional blues.
And please, Mr. Baldry, would you restring your instrument?