Johnny Nicholas review…November 5, 2017…..

JOHNNY NICHOLAS AND FRIENDS

TOO MANY BAD HABITS

PEOPLES LABEL

DISC 1:  MANDOLIN BOOGIE–LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING–TOO MANY BAD HABITS–SITTIN ON TOP OF THE WORLD–GOT THE TRAIN–ROCK MY BLUES AWAY–BLUES WALK–GRINNIN IN YOUR FACE–THE NEW CANNED HEAT BLUES–WEST WIND–BLUES CAME FALLIN DOWN–CARELESS LOVE–GETTIN OUTTA TOWN–HELLHOUND ON MY TRAIL

DISC 2:  MOVE ON DOWN THE LINE–PUMP JOCKEY BLUES–BELIEVE I’LL MAKE A CHANGE–PRISONER BLUES–APPLE GROVE RHUMBA–LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING–THAT’S ALRIGHT MAMMA–HOOTIE BLUES–MONEY, MARBLES, AND CHALK–LONESOME TRAVELER–FROGGY BOTTOM–SOON FORGOTTEN

Waaaay back in 1977, at least here in Middle Tennessee, you had to search for whatever blues albums you could find in all the local record stores.  We came upon a copy of “Too Many Bad Habits,” on the fledgling Blind Pig label,  then based out of Ann Arbor, MI,  from Johnny Nicholas And Friends, that also had members of Asleep At The Wheel playing on it. We eagerly grabbed up a copy, and, forty years down the pike, we always found it hard to grasp how a fine collection of traditional and country blues played by some of the greatest within the genre’ had never been released on CD.  In 2016, Johnny Nicholas acquired all the rights and masters of everything recorded during the three sessions that led to the creation of this album,  and put it out under his own People’s Label imprint.

The original fourteen cuts are intact, fueled by Johnny’s wicked sense of humor as well as the dazzling array of musicians involved.    Then, there is a second disc of unreleased and unheard material that is straight traditional blues, featuring Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton and Boogie Woogie Red on piano backing Nicholas’ vocals.

The fellows from Asleep At The Wheel help kick things off with a lively “Mandolin Boogie,” with Johnny Nicholas doin’ the 8-stringin.  and playing piano, with Bill Mabry on fiddle, Ray Benson on guitar, and Link Davis, Jr. on sax.  They re-unite a bit later for a fine slow-blues read of the Mississippi Sheikhs “Sittin’ On Top Of The World.”

The blues players then handle the rest of the original fourteen cuts.  Johnny does an a cappella vocal of Son House’s “Grinnin’ In Your Face,” and is on guitar and vocal along with Big Walter’s harp for excellent country-blues reads of “Careless Love” and “The New Canned Heat Blues.”  Johnny Shines is on guitar for this disc’s closer, the iconic “Hellhound On My Trail.”

By far, tho, our favorite cut was the title cut.  It’s Johnny’s tale of his penchant for booze, women, and gambling, plus the “only habit I ain’t got–the one called self-control!”   It’s humorous, bawdy, and one of our all-time favorites in any genre’.

Disc Two is equally as impressive.  It features Johnny Nicholas, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton pianist Boogie Woogie Red and drummer Martin Gross.  During this time period, Ann Arbor, MI, was a hotbed of blues, and these unreleased cuts show just how good it was.  Big Walter’s duet vocals and harp with Johnny Shines on guitar drives the walkin’ blues of  “Move On Down The Line,” and they all get in an Elmore James groove for the Johnny Nicholas original, “I Believe I’ll Make A Change.”  Boogie Woogie Red is on piano and vocal for “Hootie Blues,” and they close the show with Red on piano and Walter on harp over Johnny’s vocal on St. Louis Jimmy Oden’s “Soon Forgotten.”

Our favorite here was “Pump Jockey.”  It rivals “Bad Habits” for bawdiness and ribald humor with its sly story of a”lubricatin’ son of a gun” and the way he “tangles with your wires.”

This album has been ingrained into our musical DNA  since the first time we gave the vinyl a spin 40 years ago.  Now seeing release on CD for the first time ever, we say get yourself a cold one and a plate of that greasy barbecue and enjoy Johnny Nicholas And Friends and the Mother Lode of “Too Many Bad Habits!”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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