STAND YOUR GROUND
DELTA GROOVE MUSIC DGPCD 173
BABY PLEASE SET A DATE–RED HAWK–THINGS CAN’T BE DOWN ALWAYS–STAND YOUR GROUND–WELCOME MAT–NO FLOWERS FOR ME–ONE EARTH, MANY COLORS–HEALIN’ TOUCH–I KNOW HIS BLOOD CAN MAKE ME WHOLE–MOP, BUCKET, AND A BROOM–CLIMBING HIGH MOUNTAINS–PRECIOUS LORD, TAKE MY HAND–SUITCASE STOMP
Born in 1950 in St. Louis, John Long was influenced by his brother, Claude, already an established blues guitar player. John soon followed in his brother’s footsteps and took his guitar and headed to Chicago in the Seventies. There, he was mentored by Homesick James (Williamson) and enamored by Muddy. Fast-forward to 2006, when John Long was nominated for a Blues Award for his first Delta Groove release, “Lost And Found.” The oft-reclusive and vastly-under-recorded Long returns on May 20 with “Stand Your Ground,” an album of eight originals and five covers that show why many revere Long as a “national treasure.”
In the traditions of Son House, Bukka White, and the ole deal-maker himself, Robert Johnson, Long’s playing and singing evokes memories of the legends while forging a sound that is pleasantly and uniquely his own. For this set, he bends the rules slightly, using an amplified acoustic as well as a wooden Resonator. Bill Stuve is on bass for five cuts, as is Fred Kaplan on piano, and jazz drummer Washington Rucker. That amplified action leads off, with that unmistakable riff that rides over “Baby Please Set A Date,” with Rucker’s trademark brush-stroked drums and Kaplan’s barrelhouse piano adding the flavor.
John takes a tough stance with some low-down, dirty women, too. He busts out the neck-rack harp on “Tings Can’t Be Down Always,” and warns another one that she’s “on thin ice” after “she took advantage of my kindness,” titled “Welcome Mat.” The title cut, done in a modified rhumba pattern, reminds us that “when the Devil comes ’round in sheep’s clothing,” always “Stand Your Ground.” John begs those who love him not to buy “No Flowers For Me when I’m gone,” but, rather, donate to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
As good as John Long is as a blues player, we loved his gospel tunes. That Resonator slide tells the story of a lost soul “touching the hem of His garment, and I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole.” Poignant harp lines and Rucker’s brush work paint the whole picture as John begs, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” and, our favorite, takes a look at the state of the world today, pleading for us to “open up your heart and mind” and realize there’s “One Earth, Many Colors, one humankind.”
This music is timeless, and John Long is a staunch purveyor in the preservation of classic, pre-WWII blues in the style in which they were originally written and meant to be heard. “Stand Your Ground” shows just what a powerful player he is, and this set is highly recommended! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.