Ton-Ton Macoute!


Some shadows are harder to escape from under than others. For instance, consider the blues singer/guitarist whose initial claim to fame was playing in a band fronted by a young Otis Redding, whose inimitable left-handed style was wildly elaborated on by Jimi Hendrix, and whose first (and, for over a quarter century, only) headlining album opens with the instantly recognizable drum break that would propel Beck’s “Loser” to surprise-hit status two dozen years later. And what’s more, it damn near counts as an Allman Brothers side project — their rhythm section’s all over this standards-heavy set, and Duane’s unmistakable session-honed chops are flowing freely whether it’s through a dobro, a slide guitar, or a traditional electric. But Johnny Jenkins still has a voice, and rarely-heard as it was, Ton-Ton Macoute! makes it resonate like an old friend’s. Jenkins sings with a deep yet limber drawl that sounds just a bit mischievous even as he channels Dr. John’s New Orleans mysticism (“I Walk on Guilded Splinters”), Muddy Waters’ ruminative restlessness (“Rollin’ Stone”), and Otis Rush’s so-infatuated-it-hurts vulnerability (“My Love Will Never Die”). And while he doesn’t get many opportunities to showcase his guitar on this LP, Jenkins’ lead on that latter Rush cover and the Bobby Bland-popularized “I Don’t Want No Woman” has a way of fluttering and burbling its way into your subconscious as a platonic ideal of electrified country blues.

Nate Patrin