(4 / 5)
US blues artist Johnny Sansone’s 13th album since he started a recording career in 1987, and this long payer is the sixth on his own label Short Stack Records and features all self-penned songs.
The 64-year-old singer and songwriter produced the 11-song set, and plays a mean harmonica (his harp skills are heard on several movie soundtracks) and resonator guitar. The New Jersey bluesman has resided in New Orlans since 1990 and is also known for his Cajun and Zydeco gigs on accordion.
He is joined here by a slew of top end players, including Mike Morgan on guitar from Dallas and Chicago’s Johnny Burgin, plus standout guest spots from Little Freddie King (vocals and guitar) and the superb New Orleans’ harmonica man who also sings on one cut here, Jason Ricci.
Two years in the making, this is a very fine blues album from a respected US musician and songwriter who may not be that well known further afield, but he deserves to be on this outing.
As a kid, Johnny started out on saxophone and moved on to harmonica and guitar before he decided a blues man he would be, after he saw a Howling Wolf show in Florida at the age of 12. He sat in with Honeyboy Edwards (Robert Johnson’s compatriot) at 13-years-old.
During the 1970s Sansone studied with blues harmonica legends James Cotton and Jr. Wells. In the 1980s he toured with Ronnie Earl, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Rodgers and Robert Lockwood Jr.
He has won several awards over the years, and caught the eye and ear of Anders Osborne, and the pair began writing songs together. Osborne produced Sansone’s 2007 release “Poor Man’s Paradise.” In 2009 Sansone formed an acoustic trio with Osborne and guitarist John Fohl.
Osborne also produced Johnny’s Sansone acclaimed album “The Lord Is Waiting and the Devil is too” which was named Song of the Year at the Blues Music Awards. Osborne’s third stint as producer came for Johnny’s album “Lady On The Levee”, which featured legendary Ivan Neville on keyboard.
Next came the 2018 LP, “HOPELAND” the fourth Sansone project produced by Anders Osborne, which featured the North Mississippi Allstars. Johnny has played with some of the greats and also modern-day heroes such as Tab Benoit and the late Lucky Peterson.
For this new album, “Into Your Blues” he returns to the music that inspired him to be a musician. The top drawer ensemble roll through a swampy, soulful set of blues songs which nicely showcase Sansone’s growling vocal chops and harp licks.
Little Walter, Howling Wolf , John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed flavours, as well as classic soul and r&b vibes such as the lovely third cut in this set, “Desperation”, which harks back to the likes of Percy Sledge and David Ruffin. He gets funky on “Something Good Going On,” with a cracking harmonica solo from Johnny and a fine baritone sax solo from Brad Walker. JS can nail a groove with ease, and one of the standout tracks, “People Like You and Me” proves that.
The UK blues festivals such as Colne, Skegness, Upton etc should be looking to book this cool cat for 2023 – and prepare to be very impressed if this solid release is anything to judge him on.
By James Silver
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’