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So you're hankerin' for some dust in your mouth? Some grit to chew on as you drive down the road in your flatbed? That hot delta air is pressing in as you finish the day's work in the fields, and you're feelin' the blues? Well Little Johnny Kantreed is gonna bring you some water so's you can wash it all down. OK - enough of the imagery. Little Johnny Kantreed has really got a winner here. His CD "Bring Me A Little Water" is a wonderful collection of traditional blues played on dobro and cigar box guitar with some help from a few friends. This is the kind of traditional blues you would hear during a lunch break in the fields where someone toted along their homemade stringed instrument and just started singin' about what's ailin' them. Most of the tracks are presented plain and simple - put up a microphone and press record, but a few have a little flavor added to them ("Good Woman Blues") for some vocal effects, but nothing out of the nature of the song. Little Johnny Kantreed has a voice very much like the indie bluesman Malcolm Holcombe: a gravel road going through a dry cotton field and he plays the dobro and cigar box in a very simple traditional manner that accompanies his singing just right. The cigar box guitar really brings out the blues DNA, allowing you to hear all the way back through the plantations to the plains of Africa. "Bring Me A Little Water" is packed with a great assortment of traditional songs including a rendition of "Good Night Irene" that has everyone on the front porch singing and playing. Kantreed includes some simple solo performances of songs like "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad," the classic by Big Bill Broomzy, and his own composition "Joe's Blues." "Asked My Captain" by James Mathus of the Squirrel Nut Zippers is a nifty work song, complete with sledgehammer and anvil stomps. This is the kind of CD where you either get it or you don't. If you know what real traditional blues should sound like, then this is a CD you should look into getting.
It has been our pleasure to know Little Johnny Kantreed since, well, since none of us had any gray hair! He's a brilliant guitarist and storyteller, always fun to be around and listen to. His vocal delivery and picking style evokes a time when the disciples of the Delta roamed the earth, spreading the gospel of the blues. On his latest CD, "Bring Me A Little Water," johnny can be counted as one of those disciples, turning in fifteen standout performances, mixing in cool originals with some well-chosen covers. The last time we saw Johnny, he'd been playing a LoweBow, or a cigar box guitar, and this unique instrument is prominently featured on this CD, adding to its definitive "down home" sound. Check out the leadoff "Cigar Box Blues," a traditional tale of meeting up with the "blues, walking just like a man." The tone he gets from that guitar is also perfect for a cover of Alvin Hart's "Big Mama's Door." Nine tracks of this set were produced by Danny Lee Ramsey, and the other six feature backing harmony and instrumentation from Blue Mother Tupelo, with Ricky Davis handling the production chores. Johnny shows off his dobro skills on "You Got To Move," and lets Ricky take lead guitar on the cut from which the lyrics are drawn for the album's title, "Sylvie." Johnny handles the banjo on this cut, and Micol Davis' sweet backing vocals paint a beautiful sonic palette. Everyone will have their favorites on this diverse set, and we had three. There's neat use of the "echo effect" on "Asked My Captain," as well as the "chain gang"-like field hollers and anvil strikes. Johnny plays banjo and dobro on the sweet tale of a simpler time, back "before the information superhighway," entitled "I Remember Dirt." Fellow roots music songstress Annie Mosher's vocals make this one a sweet duet. And, "Joe's Blues," is a rowdy tale of a junkyard resident with a taste for whisky and wimmin', and is fueled by some fiery lead work from Johnny on the cigar box guitar. Johnny has always called Middle Tennessee his home, but the blues are in his heart and soul. And, with the varied production techniques employed on this set as well as the clever choice of material, "Bring Me A Little Water" is his best and most adventurous offering to date. This one is sure to bring Little Johnny Kantreed to a wider audience than ever!
Make no mistake about it, this is a Blues album. Born and raised in Music City, Kantreed has recorded an album that feels like it would be home down in the swampland of Louisiana or the Mississippi Delta. The opener, "Cigar Box Blues," churns and turns just like any rebel-rouser in the afore-mentioned states would, and he turns in a nice cover of the classic "Goodnight Irene." He can slow it down just a little, as he does on the story song "Louis Collins" and the raspy "The Red Rose," where Kantreed shows a little bit of a sensitive side. My personal favorite on this album is the thumping "What A Shame," which while there are no blues singles charts (I'm not counting the hip / hop dominated R&B chart), I think this song could have a huge impact. Get ready, peopleā€¦.Kantreed is about to make his voice known!