One-Man Johnson – ’54 Chevrolet Panel Truck Blues

Just looking at this cover brings forth memories of a Northern Winter I’ve never experienced. It’s not that I haven’t experienced Winter in Minnesota or Wisconsin (I have, I live in MN), but the Winter pictured on this LP is clearly before my time.

The needle drops and resonator guitar sounds start bouncing through the speakers followed soon by a high-hat and some weird type of bass sounding thing. After turning the cover over, I start to unravel what it is I’m listening to.

I knew this would be a Midwestern artist just from the LP cover, which also features a Wisconsin license plate, but turning it over confirmed that suspicion. There isn’t a concrete description of where this was recorded, but two towns are listed after production credits; Chippewa Falls, WI and Cushing, MN. I’ll assume it was recorded at one of those towns and as the cover states it was recorded live with no overdubs.

That bass sounding thing is a 13 string acoustic foot piano; whatever the hell that is. I’m guessing Robert made it himself in order to give his one man band act depth. He simultaneously plays guitar, harmonica, kazoo, a high-hat cymbal, and the foot piano. Not bad, Bob!

The actual music is great. Resonator slide guitar blues, ragtime jingles, songs about pot, what’s there not to like? While the album is packed with catchy blues tunes, I have to imagine this act was more fun to watch live than listen to on record.

I don’t want to discredit any of the work put into this album, though. As simple as the recording may have been, that is what makes most recordings stand out. Overproduction ruins so many otherwise great songs, there’s just no need for it. A couple of mics and a mixer and we’ve got ourselves gold!

After scouring the internet for more information, I’ve learned that Robert recorded at least 10 albums over his career as a solo one man band. He was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame in 2014, and below is a performance celebrating that in 2015.

One-Man Johnson is still active and plays live music, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to catch a post-pandemic blues party at some point. Here’s a video of him performing in 2019 in Sutliff, Iowa. You can learn more about him at House Dog Music, his own record label used to release his albums.

Spotify has Robert One-Man Johnson’ ’54 Chevrolet Panel Truck Blues album available for streaming, check it out below.

Thanks for reading!

Kathy Dalton – Boogie Bands & One Night Stands

The album cover of this pressing reminds me of an old-timey diner, but that might be the ketchup-red lettering and mustard-yellow background. Of course, when you reprint something just to slap one extra song on it you might end up with something as basic as this. That being said, yeah I dig it.

The instrumentation grabs me right away in a familiar way, like an old Colorado sunset. Something about this sounds so familiar, yet I just can’t figure out why. I turned the sleeve over to peruse the back credits only to find that this repress doesn’t list them. Naturally, I head to Discogs to look for liner notes and musician credits. I found the original release, which was titled Amazing. Sure enough, there it is. As I read the picture of the back of the jacket I focus my eyes on a group whose (nearly) entire wax discography sits right there on my shelf. “Co-Starring” The Amazing Little Feat.

I’ve collected all of Little Feat’s Lowell George-era LPs, including Lowell’s solo effort Thanks I’ll Eat It Here. Something about his presence made this group better. The post-George days just don’t do it for me. Conversely, though, his daughter Inara is fairly well represented on my shelf with her ventures in The Bird And The Bee. Check her electropop group out sometime; great melodies and harmonies.

Back to Kathy. The new song, the title track, is probably my least liked song on the album. It is just a such boring track. I’m sorry Kathy. The rest of the album is much better though. If this started off with “Pour Your Wine”, it’d have taken off much more smoothly. “Gypsy Dancer” encompasses the title with a wailing yelp from Kathy during the intro. It almost sounds like Diva Plavalaguna, the blue opera singer from The Fifth Element. Paging: Chris Tucker.

“Cannibal Forest” shares that same moonlight wail lying in the background of the instrumentation. The chorus spouts “Danger/We’re lost in the cannibal forest/Stranger/Caught in the cannibal forest”. Those backup singers chanting “danger” every few bars provide an eerie backdrop for a fairly standard funk-ified tune. It also gives me slight reminiscence of “Danger! High Voltage!” by Electric Six. “Danger, danger!”

All in all, a decent album if you’re a fan of Little Feat. It was released by Discreet Records, Frank Zappa’s label. You might recall that Lowell George was originally apart of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention before heading out on his own. The “family feel” of Little Feat/Frank Zappa/Robert Palmer and others slots this album into a predetermined category, but it resides there in great company.

Kathy’s career ended when Discreet closed their doors, but outside of this album she recorded with at least two other bands; The Gas Co. and Daughters of Albion. The Gas Co. were a run of the mill 60s garage pop group, though the tunes were decent. “Blow Your Mind” was produced by Jack Nitzsche and released by Mirwood Records in 1965.

Later, before going solo, Kathy would team up with Greg Dempsey to form Daughters of Albion. Daughters of Albion leaned more on the psychedelic side of things and would be as far out there as Kathy’s music would reach. This was when she was still going by Kathy Yesse. DoA released just one self titled album, led by the single “Well Wired”. The single fell flat.

Spotify has Kathy’s solo album available for streaming, check it out below.

Thanks for reading!