Roadhouse album review: Johnny Tucker’s soul thrives on “75 and Alive”

Johnny Tucker — “75 and Alive” (Blue Heart Records and HighJohn Records, Aug. 20)
Featuring Kid Ramos and the Allstars

Nothing makes me happier (well, to be honest, there may be a few other things) than when new blues music turns up sounding like old blues music. Or, the way I think blues music should sound.

Now, I realize this has a lot to do with the ear of the beholder. But my ears tell me that there’s real-deal, old-school blues in the latest album from soulful veteran singer (and songwriter) Johnny Tucker (he’s the “75 and alive” part), with a razor-sharp band passionately fronted by L.A.’s David “Kid” Ramos.

Tucker has one of those powerful, gritty voices that defines soulful blues. His vocals are deep and gravelly, polished by the river of blues that rolls them along. He often composes his songs as he records them, creating them in the moment. The results speak eloquently of a powerful old blues style that gets harder and harder to find in contemporary performances.

There’s a fine blend of styles on the album — some sparkling West Coast swing, some tough down-home blues, some torchy soul, and a touch of funk.

The album kicks off with a swinging groove on “All Night Long, All Night Wrong,” a classic jump blues; then softens into the torchy ballad, “There’s A Time For Love,” then continues the passion with “If You Ever Love Me,” with Bob Corritore’s harp and Carl Sonny Leyland’s piano driving the music.

“Can’t You See” chugs along with a wicked rhythm, “What’s The Matter” adds a Latin flair, and “Treat Me Good” is filled with sinuous guitar lines. “Snowplow” and “Hookline” are two jumping instrumentals, separated by “What’s On My Mind,” with some boogie-inspired piano.

The set closes out with three tough sounds: “Dance Like I Should” is a fiercely guitar-driven blues, “Have A Good Time Tonight – Play Your Soul, Johnny” and “Gotta Do It One Time” are more soul-drenched tracks, with the latter driven hard by kick-ass horns.

Besides Ramos and Corritore, the Allstars include John Bazz on electric and standup bass, drummer Jason Lozano and saxman Ron Dziubla.

The blues glue that holds all of this together, is of course, Tucker’s passionate vocals. He pleads, he begs, he swoops and swings; his voice simmering with the pleasure and pain of his music, delivered with a heartful of soul. This is the good old days, in blues.

Here’s a video of the song “Have A Good Time Tonight – Play Your Soul, Johnny”

Track Listing:
All Night Long, All Night Wrong
There’s A Time For Love
If You Ever Love Me
Can’t You See
What’s The Matter
Treat Me Good
Snowplow
What’s On My Mind
Hookline
Dance Like I Should
Have A Good Time Tonight – Play Your Soul, Johnny
Gotta Do It One Time

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