John Lee Hooker Jr – Cold As Ice

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John Lee Hooker, Jr. hasn’t shied away from his father’s immense legacy, and he always features some of Hooker, Sr.’s signature songs in concert; he included three of them on his debut album, 2004’s Blues with a Vengeance, but anyone expecting him to replicate that legacy is mistaken, for Hooker is after something else again, a true synthesis of the old with the new, and his sound is much closer to contemporary urban R&B or funk than his father’s raw, Delta-derived blues style. Still, the most immediately memorable song on Hooker’s second album, Cold as Ice, at least on first listen, is a straight out tribute to his father, the moving “Do Daddy (Requiem for John Lee Hooker),” and another of the best tracks, “Oh Baby,” works clearly out of a blues template. Most of the rest of album is a kind of funky, neo-jump blues blend, however, full of horns and a kind of urbane, good-natured humor that is in striking contrast to what passes for contemporary blues thus far in the 21st century. Unfortunately, nothing here works the synthesis between the old and the new quite as well as “Blues Ain’t Nothing but a Pimp” from Hooker’s first album, which leaves Cold as Ice feeling a bit like a transitional outing, however memorable. One gets the sense that Hooker has an even better album in him, and it could well be right around the corner.

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