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Hooker Unplugged

19 JUL 12 DAVID SHANNON

Before John Lee Hooker ever flipped on an amplifier, he played acoustic guitar blues in the nitty gritty clubs of late-1940s Detroit, a town known more at the time for piano players than guitarists. Original Blues Classics blew the dust off these early years with the '91 re-release of his 1960 recording, That's My Story, and the raw gems on the album reveal that Hooker's unplugged sound has a unique shine of its own.

Hooker infuses songs like "Come On And See About Me," "Democrat Man," and the title track with a quiet strength and wisdom, the solitary guitar providing a haunting backdrop for Hooker's distinctive talking blues. On all of the remaining cuts, two of Cannonball Adderley's sidemen -- bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes -- provide a spare, rhythmic setting for his narrative vision. "Gonna Use My Rod," "I'm Wanderin,'" and "Wednesday Evenin' Blues" in particular sum up the desperation and loneliness of the blues, revealing Hooker's rough edge as well as his vulnerability.

Listening to Hooker play acoustic one hears a more stripped-away version of his nearly proprietary blend of thumb-picked bass lines, hammer-ons, and pull-offs, and the effect helps put in perspective the origins of his style. That's My Story looks back at a crucial, formative chapter in Hooker's career.



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