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Published: 2014/09/22
by Ron Hart

John Lee Hooker
Alone

Alone (Fat Possum)
King Snake At Your Door (Blues Boulevard/Music Avenue)

There is nothing like being in the throes of a John Lee Hooker kick. I suggest you try it.

Whether its his earliest stuff from the dawn of the 1940s, the funky, funky late 60s/early 70s period that yielded some of his greatest masterpieces, including Endless Boogie, Urban Blues and Never Get Out of These Blues Alive not to mention his collaborations with AOR titans Canned Heat and The Groundhogs, or his golden years classic in 1989’s The Healer, the pitch dark perfection in JLH’s unmistakable vocal delivery and gothic guitar tone hits the spot any way you slice it.

And for those who are in search of some new old Hook to feed your fix, there are two new titles on the market tailor made to sate your soul.

Originally released in 1989 on Ode Records, Alone Vol. 1 & 2 is the document of a solo trip to New York City made by Hooker in 1976, where he found himself performing before an intimate crowd in the auditorium of Hunter College. Up onstage with only a stool, a mic and a guitar, Hooker delivered a loose, haunting one man show similar to his legendary gig at Soledad Prison in 1973, transfiguring such unmistakable signature tunes as “Boogie Chillen”, “Boom Boom” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” into loose, improvised slow burns that old pal Kent Cooper wrote in this Fat Possum reissue’s liner notes had reminded him of house parties where Hooker would hold court in the living room for the lucky and select few on hand to bear witness. If you are looking to hear this blues giant in his purest, most uncut form, Alone is the fix you need.

Meanwhile, not much is really known about the mysterious King Snake At Your Door compilation released by the UK imprint Blues Boulevard. The liner notes to the 21 track collection only reiterate obvious talking points about Hooker’s career but reveal basically nothing about from where the material contained within was derived. However, if you have a keen ear for the Hook and his 58 active years in the market will recognize this collection of largely solo performances from his wood shedding years before signing to Chess, it seems. Anyone who has such killer gray area compilations as Graveyard Blues and The Real Mr. Lucky might recognize some of the material here. Regardless, the versions of tracks like “Alberta”, “House Rent Boogie” and “Hobo Blues” are just too good to pass up. King Snake is the kind of thing you’d find on the CD rack of a truck stop in the middle of nowhere for five bucks. However don’t get it twisted—it is worth every penny of that fin you plunk down.

Trying to scoop up every title in the John Lee Hooker discography is like trying to empty out the ocean with a teaspoon. But both Alone and King Snake At Your Door are two welcome additions to that particular wing of your collection in spite of how deep into the hoodoo of Hooker your shelf space allows.

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