Retro Review : John Lee Hooker, Canned Heat – Hooker ‘n Heat (1971)

You can’t get too lost in blues talking only about Chicago style, hill country blues is where the genre has maintained its charm. We’re talking blues where rhythm is king, not wailing guitar solos. And nobody took that lesson with them up north better than John Lee Hooker.

Nothing will surpass a legendary John Lee Hooker being produced by Canned Heat. Hooker seems to be going through this double album effortlessly. It was recorded live and the man never misses a beat- you can hear his foot stomping throughout the whole recording, regardless of whether the band joins in or not. He understands deep blues almost innately and puts it on full display here. His dynamics are captivating. His use of repetition and low grumbling make it feel like he’s channeling these songs for the first time.

Meanwhile, the adulation from guys in Canned Heat is so apparent you can feel it overflowing through your speakers. The band will occasionally sit in and talk with him, soaking up every bit of information he casually blesses them with. On the second disc of this double album they sit in for him as a backing band as he really teaches them what boogie music is all about.

The track Burning Hell, after a 1:30 intro of Hooker telling a story about one of his old friends, is one of the only blues songs that I will cover when playing live by myself. I want to live in this song. I love how he is using the guitar as a percussion instrument. I love how there’s a verse where the harmonica cuts him off and he just lets it go, giving his partner a “hey hey” letting him know that he can take over for a while. This isn’t just a song, it’s a trance.

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