|Archie Lee Hooker|
By M.D. Spenser
There are plenty of reasons to be sceptical about this CD.
It relies too heavily on Archie Lee Hooker’s familial relationship with blues great John Lee Hooker rather than letting the music speak for itself. The words to track one, which mention Archie’s acquaintance with just about every bluesman who ever became famous – John Hurt, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and others – read more like a CV than song lyrics.
And the song mentions the word ‘boogie’, of course – John lee Hooker having been known as the king of the boogie.
Then, in case anyone has still somehow failed to get the point, the music stops suddenly in mid-song so we can clearly hear Archie announce, ‘My uncle, John Lee.’
Beyond that, the pairing of an elderly Mississippi bluesman and a middle-aged French rockabilly singer would seem ill-fated from the start. And at 18 tracks – most of which have perhaps two chords -- the album’s just too long.
Yet one is reminded of Mark Twain’s quip: ‘Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.’ That’s the case here, too.
Archie Lee Hooker is genuinely steeped in the blues experience. There’s a song about all his father had to do to keep the family fed – and another about how, later, the father took off, leaving his wife and children with nothing to eat and no place to sleep.
These songs ring true. The beat is propulsive, like John Lee’s, and Archie even imitates his uncle’s stutter: “The blues is in my bones, in my bones.”
Calypso makes no attempt to inject rockabilly into the proceedings, which would have been discordant.
These songs are deeply informed by growing up poor in the Delta. Some of them will probably grow on you over time.
But if you want to hear stuff that sounds like John Lee Hooker, your best bet is to buy a John Lee Hooker album. True, this CD is better than it sounds. But still, Archie can’t hold a handle to John Lee.