New York, NY-February 1st marks the release of The Drifter, the sixth album from joumeyman blues harmonica player, songwriter and vocalist Junior Johnny. The brand new disc includes thirteen soulful original compositions and some of the best examples yet of Johnny's virtuoso toned blues harp.
So how did Johnny Ruzich Jr ., the New York City bred grandson of polka playing Bohemian gypsies, end up devoting his life to Chicago-style blues? Like his playing, Junior Johnny's answer is both delightfully tempestuous and effortlessly profound. "When I heard Muddy Waters, I just freaked out!" he exclaims. After honing his craft in several early '60s teenage garage bands (actually "apartment bands," the neighbor-annoying NYC equivalent), Johnny was drafted and served as a combat MP in Vietnam. When his tour of duty ended, he moved to San Francisco and was soon making a name for himself with now-legendary blues men like Mike Bloomfield and Jimmy Witherspoon. Subsequently, Johnny got his dream gig performing alongside the man who would christen him "Jr. Johnny": the great John Lee Hooker. "Hooker said he wanted me to have a nickname and just gave me one on the spot," Johnny explains. "It stuck."
When the twin responsibilities of family and higher education forced him to give up life on the road, Junior Johnny began a series of wildly divergent professions that later gave him grist for his highly descriptive songwriting. "I've been everything from a union carpenter to a winemaster, "he says, "but I just wanna be out there playing!" Johnny is currently busy promoting The Drifter while readying material for his next release.
"Hey, got some beer ya want to cry into? Need some musical encouragement?
Or if your in a good mood and want to thumb your nose at the bad times, with
musical backing of course. You must buy a copy of Jr. Johnny's CD, The Drifter,
A Tribute to Sonny Boy. Then you need to get down and listen to it. And listen well.
This CD is filled with chuggin' blues and washboard vocals. One can't ask for
a better combination for a good blues album. Who is Jr. Johnny? Hell I don't know.
Who cares? This is about his music. Jr. Johnny is clearly, or a better term, ear-ly, a
blues man whose music comes from his very soul. The CD is in honor of Sonny Boy,
who definitely influenced Jr. Johnny in a positive way. What makes this CD shine is
the fact that Jr. Johnny used a young musician, David Litchtiger on guitar. Since the
standard music industry has trashed what can be consider good music the youth
listen to, it is grand that a young musician can work with an old man like Jr.
Johnny and put out true blues.
What about the tunes? We got some lip smackin' lyrics in this CD. Like in the
tune, "Sweeter the Meat". Ah yes. A no-nonsense down-to-earth, honest song. Oh
you just don't hear about love and the related activities here, you also hear the
blues spin on a pool game. Yah!
Of course, there are some traditional themed type songs on The Drifter, A
Tribute to Sonny Boy by Jr. Johnny. And these are done the true blues manner.
The sound of the CD is excellent. The mix is one that you can hear everything.
A tough thing to do really, but it is done well on this CD. By everything I mean
all the instruments and vocals stand alone as well as blend. In a big room it
sounds like the band is there right in front of you.
Don't fool around with the Blues. Get yourself a copy of Jr. Johnny's CD,
The Drifter- A Tribute to Sonny Boy."