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John Lee Hooker 

Hooker (Shout! Factory)

Wednesday, Nov 22 2006
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There's this blues song, "The Blues Had a Baby, and They Called It Rock & Roll," and paternity tests reveal the late Bay Area resident John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) to be one of its most likely fathers. Hooker is one of the pivotal figures in the development of blues and rock 'n' roll, a link between city and rural strains. His rhythmic approach was looser, more cyclical, and resolutely groove-oriented (plus occasionally dissonant) than his urban contemporaries, and his guitar style is, after a fashion, just as economical as Joe Strummer's and Johnny Ramone's, though possessed of an inimitable, smoldering, after-midnight snarl. Hooker's deep, talk-sing voice feels possessed yet somewhat stoic — when he wails, it's more cathartic than anguished. The man directly influenced generations of performers — the Animals, Carlos Santana, Van Morrison, and Bonnie Raitt, to name a few — and the raw, punklike mojo-stomp of RL Burnside and his ilk? Hooker is the source, baby. The four-disc Hooker is his first career-spanning document, and from his unaccompanied solo sessions in 1948 to his guest star-studded mid-'80s recordings, JLH blazed a path that twists on forever. — Mark Keresman

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Mark Keresman

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