Lonnie Johnson & Eddie Lang: Have to Change Keys to Play These Blues
Have to Change Keys to Play These Blues
Steppin' on the Blues (Columbia CK 46221)
Recorded: New York, November 17, 1928
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
By 1928, Eddie Lang, ethnic Italian from Philadelphia, and Lonnie Johnson, African-American from New Orleans, were recognized as top guitar masters. This track, one of 10 extraordinary duets they recorded in 1928-29, proceeds at a rather stately tempo, unlike some of the other duets. As Johnson said, on this track, as in the other duets, "Eddie could lay down rhythm and bass parts just like a piano." This song shows how the two guitarists took the basic music and bent notes and slurs of the blues, and added sophisticated and intricate interweavings of Lang's solid rhythm and harmonics with Johnson's lead work. Lang occasionally takes the lead, as in the fourth chorus here (sounding more heavy-handed than Johnson), but usually it is Johnson in the lead, managing to combine an often light, jazzy skipping quality with a rich tone and bluesy feel, as his inventive melodic lines soar above Lang's foundation. They are so attuned to each other that they are like a pair of superb longtime dancers whose two bodies move as one. The magic of these duets has been seminal in guitar history.
Reviewer: Dean Alger