Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Johnny Copeland

  • Copeland Special [Rounder, 1981] A-
  • Make My Home Where I Hang My Hat [Rounder, 1982] B
  • Bringin' It All Back Home [Rounder, 1985] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Copeland Special [Rounder, 1981]
It's the stellar horn section (led by George Adams, Byard Lancaster, and Arthur Blythe) that calls attention to this album, but anybody who buys blues albums for horn sections has missed the point. Copeland boasts better-than-average chops as both singer and guitarist, not such a common parlay (especially among debuting 44-year-olds), but anybody who buys blues albums for chops has really missed the point. The point is conviction, more palpable here than on any new blues to come my way since Johnny Shines's 1977 Too Wet to Plow. Put across by those chops, of course. And quite probably inspired by that stellar horn section. A-

Make My Home Where I Hang My Hat [Rounder, 1982]
At the outset Copeland identifies himself as a "Natural Born Believer," then applies himself to the bluesman's dilemma of making that belief come just as naturally to us. On his debut album, an all-star horn section and a quarter century of pent-up ambition put him over, but here he opts for the homey (and perhaps overfamiliar) spontaneity of his road band and instead gets horns and songs that sound half-dead until he mixes in some covers overdisc. B

Bringin' It All Back Home [Rounder, 1985]
"It's the same music, the same old beat," Copeland reports on this largely instrumental blues album, the first ever recorded where it all sort of began. Fortunately, that's not what his guitar says, nor his continentally integrated band, which finds a groove somewhere between an airborne Congolese rumba and a Gulf Coast shuffle with some tricky dance figures thrown in. And who knows, maybe all concerned were capacitated by the illusion of unity. When wise guys like Yusef Lateef and Stewart Copeland visit Africa in search of la différance, they come back with albums that are neither here nor there. B+