Motor City Josh

Motor City Josh
Forty Four - A Tribute To Howlin' Wolf

Ford Music Company

By Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
March 2009

Over the many years - and it's getting close to forty-four - that I've been a fan of this glorious music they call the blues, I've unfortunately had the displeasure of hearing many a so-called blues singer destroy a song while unsuccessfully attempting to sound like the original artist of the cover he was singing.

Especially if it was a cover of a Howlin' Wolf song.

Thankfully, this is not the case here. According to Motor City Josh JOSH, 14 years of smoking, and singing every night, has actually given him a Wolf-like voice. Now from a healthy point of view, I don't know how good that really is, but it's just what the doctor ordered for the making of this disc. Josh absolutely nailed it.

On Forty Four, Josh, on amazing vocals, guitar, slide guitar, and tambourine, is joined by: Johnny Rhoades on guitar and backup vocals, Chris Douglas on standup and electric bass, Justin Headley on drums, Shawn McDonald on piano and organ; Stacia Ford and Eric Savage on backup vocals, Jason Ricci on harmonica - and the honoree himself, Chester Burnett, aka Howlin’ Wolf, on backup vocals.

With all 13 tracks being blues classics, it's going to be real hard to just pick a handful to mention, so I'll go with a “Spoonful.” On this one, Josh cleverly inserts audio clips of the Wolf himself singing backup, and the results are masterful. Hearing them singing together assures this was a perfect project for Josh. Just as on the original, the rhythm - provided by Douglas and Headley - is killer.

With Josh sounding as good as Wolf on the vocals and Ricci blowing the harp like some of the masters that played it with Wolf, they're amazing together on “Back Door Man.”

“Sittin’ On Top Of The World” may musically be the best track on FORTY FOUR. It's a slow, soft ballad in which the music is actually more profound than the vocals, and everyone is so sharp and precise. It's one of the few tracks that allow McDonald to shine on piano, and that's a good thing. This is great stuff!

All I can say about “Little Red Rooster” is that this one is all JoshH. C'mon, we're talkin' “Little Red Rooster” here…and that means lots of raspy vocals with equal amounts of scratchy slide guitar. Josh covers them both very nicely.

Maybe it's because I can relate, but “Built For Comfort” was always my favorite Howlin’ Wolf song. This version is an all out free-for- all between the lead guitar, the harmonica and the drums - with no apparent loser. This one's hot.

If you plan to boogie all night long, then turn up the volume and put on “Wang Dang Doodle.” It's no secret this track’s a smoker - regardless of who does it - but Josh and the guys take it up a notch (yes, it is possible). Great lead and rhythm guitar and wicked drum work highlight this highlight.

Forty Four closes with “Goin’ Down Slow.” As we all know, this one's a slow blues burner. It's highlighted by great slide guitar by Josh, smokin' lead guitar riffs by Rhoades, and solid and steady organ by McDonald.

Other classics on the disc include the title track, “Forty Four,” “Evil,” “Three Hundred Pounds of Joy” (another one I can relate to,) “I Ain’t Superstitious,” “Smokestack Lightnin’,” and “Meet Me At The Bottom.”

If you're a fan of Howlin' Wolf - and who isn't - you're going to want this disc.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This review has been complimentary written for by Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro, a contributing writer for BLUESWAX and the Blues Editor at

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