Don't Look Back

John Lee Hooker

Pointblank (Virgin), 1997

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally appearing in On The Town magazine on April 29, 1997]

Welcome to American Music 101. If you're interested in the British Invasion, punk, techno or worldbeat, you're in the wrong class. But if you want to talk about pure homegrown American music, take a seat. Our first subject—naturally—is the blues. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

At the time this album came out, John Lee Hooker wasn't actually older than God—it just seemed that way. What he was, is a master bluesman who was playing the music professionally long before LP records were first mass-marketed in the 40s. You might wonder if someone at the stage in life he was in 1997 still had something to say, and the strength to say it; you might as well wonder if the sun is going to rise in the East tomorrow. Hooker was a force of nature and, still speaking the timeless language of the Mississippi Delta Blues, he blew another hard yet undeniably warm wind our way on the aptly-named Don't Look Back.

A measure of the respect this man earned is that long-time admirer Van Morrison produced this entire album (except for the terrific blues-boogie opener, "Dimples," which was produced by Los Lobos) and sings background on several songs, joining Hooker for a call-and-answer blues shout of a duet on Morrison's own "The Healing Game."

In the space of a few numbers, Hooker gives you all the primer you'll ever need on the blues: the nonchalant yet unmistakably pained narrative of "Ain't No Big Thing;" the forward-facing philosophical pitch of the wistful title tune; the roadhouse piano scat "Blues Before Sunrise;" the driving, joyous boogie of "Spellbound" (a song that tells you everything you ever needed to know about where Texas boys ZZ Top stole their sound from); the all-the-way-down-but-somehow-still-smiling rumbler "Travellin' Blues" and the declaratory "I Love You Honey," which comes bouncing along wearing rock and roll's roots all over its spiced-up beat and proto-Chuck Berry guitar.

This is the real thing, baby—accept no substitutes. John Lee Hooker was an American classic. And that will be on the test...

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2013 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Pointblank (Virgin), and is used for informational purposes only.