Bluesman Jimmy Johnson's career can be divided into two periods: journeyman and recording artist. Mississippi-born and Chicago bred, he has been playing and singing blues since the late '50s -- accompanying Jimmy Dawkins and Otis Rush, among others -- and recording on his own since the late '70s. He's a triple threat these days, blessed with a stirring tenor voice, an expressive guitar technique and a knack for writing clever songs.
All of those attributes are evident on "Every Road Ends Somewhere," an album that finds Johnson working with his core band, augmented by horns, Hammond organ, and a guitar cameo by the late blues guitarist Luther Allison. Recorded in France two years ago, the music is a tad over-produced at times, but there's no mistaking the emotional power Johnson can trigger with his voice and guitar, whether he's reprising a blues classic, such as "Black Night," or unveiling one of his own minor key musings, such as "My Baby By My Side." The songs, nearly all original, cover a lot of ground, from stark ballads and southern soul/blues to the reggae-flavored "The Street Where You Live," but Johnson's performances are always surefooted and sometimes compelling.
The veteran bluesman can also be heard preaching and playing the blues with authority on "North/South," a collection of tracks he recorded in the early '80s that are now available on CD. While the album's title derives from the biographic nature of "Track To Run" and "Talkin' 'Bout Chicago," Johnson is at his best when he refuses to play the fool on "Can't Go No Further" or tries to avenge his shattered heart and soul on "Dead or Alive."
Appearing Sunday at Paddy Mac's.
To hear a free Sound Bite from "Every Road Ends Somewhere," call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8107. For a free Sound Bite from "North/South," press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)