Lonnie Johnson: Broken Levee Blues


Broken Levee Blues


Lonnie Johnson (guitar, vocals)


Lonnie Johnson Vol. 4 (1928-1929) (Document Records)

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Lonnie Johnson (guitar, vocals).

Composed by Lonnie Johnson


Recorded: New York, November 16, 1928


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

The great Mississippi River flood of 1927 inspired a series of songs. Probably the most famous is Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues." This track is Lonnie Johnson's musical response to the big flood. It opens and continues with that inimitable Johnson touch, tone and rhythm on guitar, and his usual exquisite sense of harmonics that not only augment the pure music and add texture to the song, but often impressionistically complement and enhance the meaning of the lyrics. The words, in classic blues form, do a marvelous job of conveying the natural disaster and its human impact. The blues melody is memorable and expressive. Johnson's singing here is better than on his 1926-1927 recordings, and starts to demonstrate the vocal mastery he fully developed by the later 1940s. This Great Mississippi River Flood song is not as widely known and lauded as Bessie's, but it deserves to be.

Reviewer: Dean Alger

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