Royal Johnson is a band out of Macon, GA. It was formed by Chance Foyal and Andy Johnson. Looking at the delightful cover of their second album, Howlin‘. You expect you are going to hear a strong Allman Brothers influence, and you do. But the band has its own blend of Southern rock, blues, and funk that makes very pleasant listening.
There are eight tracks on the album, but since this is not a brand that lays down 3-minute tracks. It’s a satisfying amount of music. Six of the tracks are originals, with the two covers being “Howlin For My Darlin’,” written by Willie Dixon, and “Voodoo In You,” which was written by Jackie Avery and recorded by Johnny Jenkins.
The album was produced by the legendary Paul Hornsby. Original band members Kevin Vines on bass and Joanie Ferguson on drums were present for most of the recording but left before it was finished and were replaced by James Lengel on drums and Joseph Palmer on bass.
The album starts with a strong take on the Howlin’ Wolf classic,”Howlin For My Darlin”’,” with some fantastic harmonica from Bennie Mobley. who plays with Johnson in the duo, Dos Blues Guys., as well.
Next comes the straight blues-rock of “Aisling,” which establishes this group as a jam band in the best tradition. “Over The Edge” adds a sharper edge and emphasizes the rock. It features some excellent vocal harmonies and very effective organ from producer Hornsby.
“Swim” takes a quick turn into Southern funk and is a lot of fun to listen to. “Liquored Up” is a rollicking song with more excellent harmonica and great keyboard work, again from Hornsby, complementing Johnson’s vocals and Royal’s guitar. This song works on every level and is my favorite track.
“Voodoo in You” makes very effective use of an erratic drumbeat and spooky-sounding chorus ‘of singers for a delightfully creepy song. “Snipe Shoals” is a long instrumental jam with a strong Allman Brothers feel, bringing back the feeling, for me at least, of lazing in the sun at outdoor concerts listening to the musicians improvise on stage.
The album ends with a fun, funky little rave-up called “Hot Pants Sally.” Horns, provided by saxophonist Darren Day and trumpet player Charlie Harbor, add to it immensely and the guitar, excellent drumming, and energetic vocals backed by that amazing chorus make it a real party pleaser.
This is a Southern group born and bred, and the album represents the music that is in their blood. You can tell. It is an essential album for any fan of Southern rock, funk, and blues.
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