Rockin’ Johnny Burgin Neoprene Fedora
West Tone Records
Johnny Burgin was raised in Starkville, Ms. and Greenville, S.C. He went to The University of Chicago with the intention of becoming a writer but instead fell into the Chicago blues scene. He started backing up the Chicago blues vocalist Taildragger. Later he wound up touring with both Pinetop Perkins and Sam Lay. Burgin formed his own band, The Rockin Johnny Band, and took a Monday night residency at a local Chicago club called Smoke Daddy. He soon signed a recording contract with Delmark Records and currently has six cds with the label. Burgin’s last studio recording was 2015’s “Greetings From Greaseland” which featured him alongside Kid Anderson, Vance Ehlers, Aki Kumar and June Core.
This new recording documents Burgin’s relocation to California from Chicago where he lived for twenty-eight years. This time The Rockin Johnny Band includes Burgin, guitar, harp, and vocals; Anderson, guitar, bass and piano; Bob Welsh, guitar and piano; Kumar, harp and percussion; Ehlers, bass; and either Core or Stephen Dougherty, drums. The album is produced by Burgin and Stephanie Tice.
“Neoprene Fedora” is the title track and first of eleven new songs. It is an exciting bit of surf rock featuring Burgin’s evocative guitar, along with the guitars of Anderson and Welsh, and Nancy Wright’s saxophone. Core’s drumming is also fabulous. Burgin rides this reverb wave for over seven minutes of adrenalin induced fun.
“Kinda Wild Woman”; “Please Tell Me”, and “Our Time is Short” are zydeco songs inspired by accordion player Clifton Chenier. Featured on the squeeze box is Steve Willis from The Elvin Bishop Band. On the latter Burgin sings as if he’s lived his whole life in Lafayette, La; it’s a great vocal.
“My Life’s Enough For Me”, “Won’t Get Married Again” and “I Ain’t Gonna Be a Working Man No More” are Chicago styled songs. “Smoke and Mirrors” was co-written with harpist “Jumpin Gene” Halton, a friend and a University of Notre Dame sociology professor; it is sung by Alabama Mike who sings again on the fabulous “I Did The Best I Could”.
“Guitar King” was written by Andrew “Blueblood” McMahon, Howlin’ Wolf’s bassist, and first recorded by McMahon in 1973. Kumar is featured on harp. Kumar also contributes his original “Self Made Man”.
“Give Me An Hour in Your Garden” was first recorded by fiddler Papa John Creach with his band Zulu in 1972. Interestingly the guitarist in Zulu was Keb Mo’.
“(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” is from L.V. Banks, a Chicago Blues and soul blues guitarist, singer and songwriter who recorded it in 1998.
“Goodbye Chicago” is the slow shuffle that closes out this fabulous album. “Oh goodbye Chicago, I got to leave you now. Oh goodbye Chicago, I got to leave you now, I’m going to California. I got to put you down”. “Everybody I know in Chicago has got to set in their ways. I don’t want to live in Chicago the rest of my days”. “You were the home of the blues but Memphis and St.Louis stole your crown, Chicago I got to put you down”. Wright is perfect as she wrings some heavy emotion out of her horn.
You can take the boy out of Chicago but you can’t take Chicago out of the boy. Burgin is masterful on “Neoprene Fedora”.