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Five Horse Johnson | The Mystery Spot | review | rock | Lollipop
Five Horse Johnson
The Mystery Spot (Small Stone)
by Craig Regala
Brian has a bunch to say about these guys, so I thought I'd cut in on his dance and chime in as a more "casual user." I'll let'm hit you with some facts and qualitative stuff before I unleash my torrent of blab.
Brian: Now in their 11th year as a band, Five Horse Johnson could be looked upon as the old men of the fast-becoming-hip Small Stone label. The Mystery Spot is the band's sixth full-length release (their fifth for Small Stone) and those, like myself, who are long-time fans will not be surprised to hear the band as strong as ever. Sure, they're currently drummerless, but because they're Five Horse Johnson, they're able to secure the services of one of the world's best drummers, J.P. Gaster. Such things happen to great bands.
Me: What these guys do is hotwire the 50-year tradition of broad-hipped electric blues/r&b the way John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters (and his full-on band) did up through "white blues" (Cream/Captain Beefheart/Stackwaddy et. al.) which was precursor/ concurrent to early metal (see: Sabbath, Black; Zeppelin, Led, up to the band they borrowed a drummer from, Clutch). The boys belly-flop into the deep mud-clogged river of America and belch out the steel-shod blues shorn of beer rock, sissyified record collector ass-covering, and archivist minutiae. Being fired up on punk rock as lads helped, and wallowing in real jukejoint blues in-person was the right thing to do. FHJ chased the burning adrenaline back towards the primal fire. What does it all mean? They ain't "this is important historically, and we're doing you a service by presenting it," it's "baby, get out the grill, cuz after we bust this out and free your ass-soul were havin' pork chops. Big ones. With BAR-B-QUE on the side. Extra hot sauce."
Brian: The harmonica's a lot more prominent here than on predecessor The Last Men on Earth, but it's more or less the same old thing. Same great songs. Same hot guitar playing. Same great vocals. More of the same when it's great is OK with me, but for some, too much of anything is a bad thing, right? On paper, you might have a case for such a supposition. However, words on a page ain't gonna make you dance, The Mystery Spot will. If this is important (and I'm guessing it is, or else you ain't much of a Five Horse Johnson fan), you won't be so worried about such intellectual proceedings, at least not while the music's playing.
Me: Pick to click: Fuck, man, I mean "Gin Clear" coulda been off of Aerosmith's Live Bootleg or J. Geils' Full House, "Ten-Cent Dynamite" or "Keep Your Prize" could slot on the recent Clutch, and "I Can't Shake It" might be a Peel session with Canned Heat. Some of the other stuff coulda been where Big Chief mighta gone if they'd went that way, and Tenderloin almost did. I'd pay an extra dollar to hear'm cover Mountain's "Mississippi Queen," Robin Trowers' "Day of the Eagle," or Green River's "Unwind." If anyone has a "Boogie 'Til You Puke" t-shirt, make sure ya wear it to see Five Horse Johnson.