If you knew nothing about John Alex Mason upon first hearing his new release Jook Joint Thunderclap you’d swear it was a long lost Lomax recording from the Delta that has been unearthed and given a remix treatment. But in reality this project is the result of a highly inspired collaboration of Colorado native Mason and musicians from Chicago, Memphis, and West Africa creating what he calls “World Boogie.” Mason has been gaining attention as a one man band, accompanying his lonesome moaning vocals with slide and cigar box guitar and foot percussion, playing hill stomp blues, country, folk and roots rock. Recorded live off the floor in five days Thunderclap takes Mason’s music to a whole new level with the injection of djembe, bolofon, fiddle, harmonica, bass, drum kit and rap vocals. Fueled by mutual admiration, the ten songs are infectious and intriguing, drawing the listener in to what must have been quite a time. The amazing grandsons of legendary R.L Burnside, Corey and Cedric, provide the sick drum grooves, and rap styling on “Gone So Long,” and the Hooker-esque “Riding On,” and “Free.” Mason adds djembe and slip sliding vocals to his fresh reading of time old classic “Rolled and Tumbled,” while the lively two step “Diamond Rain,” evokes both the high plains and the savanna, with the fiddle and djembe dancing two and fro. The whole group goes to church on the rousing Fred McDowell Mississippi classic “Write Me A Few of Your Lines.” The album closes with Mason returning to solo acoustic for the intimate ode “Whisper,” but fans can go online and add Mason and Co. doing a foot stomp shuffle on Robert Johnson’s “You’ve Got a Good Friend,” as an epilogue.
Jook Joint Thunderclap is a brave step for an artist who seemingly could do it all alone but decided to invite the wider world to join in his party.
Rick J Bowen
vinyl album release 9-13-2011