John “JB” Bigham, otherwise known as “The Soul of John Black,” recently released his sophomore album Good Girl Blues on Yellow Dog, a blues label based in Memphis. Known primarily for his work with the pioneering black rock band Fishbone (he joined the group in 1991), Bigham is a supremely talented guitarist, songwriter, vocalist, drummer and keyboard player who has also toured and recorded with artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Eminem, Joi, Dr. Dré, and Bruce Hornsby. Bringing all of these influences to the table, Good Girl Blues is a unique fusion of funk, rock, soul and hip hop, with more than an occasional nod to traditional blues. Providing the back-up is Chris “C.T.” Thomas on bass (on two tracks) and members of Nikka Costa’s touring band: Adam McDougal on keyboards, Shawn Davis on bass, and Davey Chegwidden on percussion. Additional vocals are provided by Laura Jane Jones, Kandace Linsey, and Jonell Kennedy.
Kicking off (and concluding) the CD is “The Hole,” which gives a nod toward the roots of African American music by incorporating a traditional field holler into the mix. For “I Got to Work” and “Deez Blues” Bigham switches to slide guitar, performed on an old Stella (the preferred model of many a Chicago blues musician) that he purchased in a Hollywood pawn shop. Also featured on the album are several tracks in a more traditional vein such as “Blue Moon Blues,” “Good Girl,” and “Feelings;” the funky, grooving “Swamp Thang;” the gospel-country tinged “One Hit” about a drug addict; and “Slipin and Slidin,” and instrumental featuring DJ Phizz Ed on turntables layered over Bigham’s guitar.
Good Girl Blues goes far towards revitalizing the genre for the 21st century, but the production could have been a bit tighter. Bigham composed and sang all of the songs, provided the guitar accompaniment and added the drum tracks, in addition to producing and recording the sessions. At times this leads to a certain level of self-indulgence and the pace occasionally bogs down—something that might have been avoided if an outside producer was brought in to take on some of the load. But overall this album is a real pleasure. The seemless melding of genres and instrumental virtuosity combined with Bigham’s vocals—sometimes gritty, often bluesy, and frequently provocative—take this album to a higher lever. There is plenty here to satisfy the blues aficionados as well as the hip hop generation.
Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss