A Moment's Notice!

-- Chris King

Johnny Farmer (Fat Possum)

Johnny Farmer is the kind of man you would never expect to record an album. In fact, I'm not even sure he ever saw it coming himself. Farmer's relationship with the blues is a personal one -- music is used for pure entertainment or as an instrument of emotional release. And, accordingly, the performances on Wrong Doers are humble. This is not to say that they are sedate, however. What Farmer may lack in showmanship and bravado, he makes up for with the intensity of his playing.

Farmer is a member of the old guard and picks his own version of traditional Delta blues. Like Muddy Waters, Farmer doesn't always keep perfect time (on some tracks, you can even hear him tapping his foot along to the off-beat). But that very fact is part of Wrong Doers' appeal. You never sense that Farmer is performing for anyone but himself. The album was recorded in a studio, but the production stays out of Farmer's way. I imagine him sitting in a chair, hunched over his guitar, politely ignoring everyone else.

Wrong Doers Respect Me is a spare album, and though Johnny plays alone, every single tune crackles with an electricity that seems to spark between his fingers and the strings, accentuated by howls, whispers and laments. Nowhere is that more apparent than on "Hush Hush Hush Hush," which ignites with Farmer's every pluck and wail. If he was backed by a full band on "Seven Up," a jittery country-blues number, it would most certainly induce stomping on the hardwood floors of a small-town juke joint. Though Wrong Doers lacks the rock & roll polish of current local blues artists like T-Model Ford or Elmo Williams and Hezekiah Early, it's still one of the best new blues albums of the past few years.

-- Anna Giuliani

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