Johnny Guitar Watson

The Essential Johnny "Guitar" Watson (Fuel 2000/EMI)

On the heels of such other Texas-bred blues-guitar luminaries as T-Bone Walker, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and Lightnin' Hopkins came the lesser-known but equally incendiary Johnny "Guitar" Watson, who actually had a resurrection in the '70s as a pimp-strutting funkster (one album was called Ain't It a Bitch and depicted a fur-adorned Watson on the cover, sitting on a couch in full pimp regalia, with two women lounging at his feet). This comp collects the singles he made in the '50s, after leaving Texas and relocating to the West Coast.

Watson's recordings employed swinging horn sections and bluesy arrangements, as epitomized by "Don't Touch Me," which echoes B.B. King, but Watson's delivery, both on vocals and guitar, is much more raw. His bare-bones guitar-playing can partly be attributed to the fact that Watson played with his thumb instead of a pick. This gives "Hot Little Mama," "Too Tired," and "Ruben" an uproarious clanking quality closer to other such blues-guitar devil hounds as Magic Sam and Elmore James than the swankier uptown sounds of King or Walker. On "She Moves Me," Watson bends the notes in the brutalizing style of John Lee Hooker (the song also features a downright rude sax solo courtesy of Watson's main collaborator, Maxwell Davis). Essential also includes 1957's immortal "Love Bandit," which helped earn Watson his nickname "the gangster of love" with such lines as "that's your wife on the back of my horse." Spoken like a true Texan. Now, where's volume two?

 
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