John Lee Hooker, Jr.

John Lee Hooker, Jr.
All Hooked Up

Steppin’ Stone Records

By David Wilson
December 2012

The progression between this release and the previous All Odds Against Me is obvious with the bonus DVD containing French animator Callicore’s graphic depiction of “All Odds…” dramatic track, “Dear John.” But even aside from the DVD, the overriding message of this release is the celebration of a successful struggle over all those “odds.”

While “hooked up” has come to be part of our vernacular for a sexual relationship, it is not used in that connection here. The obvious reference is of course his connection to his father. In an interview on the Blues 411 website, he also described it as a metaphor and explained with the following simile: “Now you know that you can’t get nowhere if you are on a bicycle and the chain keeps slipping. It keeps on slipping and you go a little further and it slips some more then eventually the chain breaks. So that was how my life was going, slipping and breaking and that’s how I came up with the title All Hooked Up which is the opposite of a chain that’s not linked together.”

While there is little doubt that the influence of his father is a part of his music, the same can be said of most blues musicians. John Lee Hooker was a seminal force and a maverick to boot in having an absolutely unique delivery.

Junior’s delivery, while not as unique, nonetheless is complex and carries forward some of those characteristics that we most valued in his father’s performances.

His vocal often challenges the beat. He changes tempo easily and unexpectedly not quite as freely as his dad did, but often enough to be considered a signature. He has the boogie down cold.

His compositions range over a wide landscape of social and psychological situations and while some of them will be controversial, he does not shy away from expressing his feelings. In interviews, he comes off a little preachy, but not in his music. In his music the moral values are there, but honestly presented as well as the frailties and the failures.

On the other hand, his imagery is up to date and his sensibilities are contemporary. Witness the compassion expressed for a woman trapped in stagnant marriage as described in the lead song “Tired of Being a Housewife.”

His articulation is uncommonly precise, adding a great deal of connection to all that he sings.

I really enjoyed the duet with Betty Wright on “I Surrender”, and on this and on all of the numbers, credit has to be given to producer Larry Batiste who is so in synch with Hooker and his artistry that he knows when to restrain Hooker and when to set him free to wail.

On the whole, this is a standout production which pays ample tribute to its roots while branching into a sampler of many different blues sub-genres.

All of them are well served.

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