I don’t know what – if anything – Johnny Riley may have done for a living besides being a musician. Quite honestly, from what I’m hearing, I couldn’t imagine him ever doing anything else. With a voice like this, Johnny Riley was born to sing the blues.
On his second CD, titled “Crossroads Of My Life”, Johnny Riley – on rhythm guitar, vocals and harmonica – is joined by: Mike Lowrimore on Hammond B3, Piano and keyboards; Bill Marshall and Steve Fly on drums; Evan Leake on lead, rhythm, slide, acoustic and bass guitars; J C Roberts and Tommy Davis on bass; Barry Kemp on tambourine and back up vocals; and Mickey Rogers on lead guitar. The CD contains ten tracks of which eight are Johnny Riley originals.
The one sheet accompanying the CD proudly noted that everyone involved with the project was from Texas, Tennessee or Mississippi. I can’t help but wonder if Johnny ever thought of calling the band Johnny Riley and the Texatennesippi Blues Project?
On the opening and title track Johnny claims that he’s standing at the crossroads of his life. Having heard that, I’m hoping he doesn’t rush into making any deals with the devil just yet. In actuality, from what I’m hearing, Johnny seems to be on top of the world professionally. From every note sung, to every note played and from the production process, to the recording process, “Crossroads Of My Life” is a masterpiece.
The song is sung with such conviction; The lyrics tell a compelling story; The tone from every instrument is perfect and every one of those instruments can be perfectly heard throughout the track; Kudos to Johnny Riley (vocals, harp and rhythm guitar); Mike Lowrimore (Hammond B3); Bill Marshall (drums); Evan Leake (lead guitar, co-producer); J C Roberts (Bass, co-producer); and Barry Kemp (co-producer); collectively, you guys were genius on this “song of the year” caliber project.
To convey my thoughts on “Anger Sets In” I could easily say “see above”. With that thought in mind, this could turn out to be the most redundant review of my career. Hey, as the saying goes – you call a spade a spade so I won’t apologize for calling perfection, perfection. Once again, Mike, Bill and Evan are so profound on the rhythm it sounds like the organ, drum kit and bass amp are right behind me. Doing triple duty, Evan’s also killing it on slide and lead guitar. And Johnny, with such a subtle but yet very cool twang, is belting the hell out the vocals. Another monster track.
By this groups standards, “Lonely Is The Night”, is one of the more relaxed tracks, with the keywords in that statement being “by this groups standards”. On what’s probably as close as Johnny Riley gets to a ballad, his vocals are totally mesmerizing – I could, and very well may – listen to this song for hours. Although still somewhat intense, Mike, Steve and J C – on the organ, drums and bass – have a tight rhythm thing going but musically it’s Evan’s accomplished acoustic guitar work that stands out here. Here I sit, blown away again.
“You’re Wrong” is actually a nice way of saying it, Johnny. From what I’m hearing this woman did to you I’d have expected to hear you say you’re wrong (expletive deleted)! This smoker is another well written, well sung track that features Johnny tearing it up on the harp and teaming up with Evan for some rippin’ guitar riffs.
According to Johnny, when his woman left him she did so without even writing a note – but he saw it coming, because the writing was on the wall. “No Letter Blues” is by far the most traditional blues track of the disc. It’s features Johnny belting out good old, low down, gut wrenching, gravel voiced vocals and on his only appearance on the disc, scorching blues guitar leads by Mickey Rogers.
Other tracks on this very Impressive recording include: “Cold, Cold Summer” (Ross,Edwards and Graham ), “Be My Woman”, “I Wonder”, “No Love On My Mind” and “John The Revelator” (Public Domain).
The disc’s liner notes, written by Carol Marble of Mississippi Delta Blues Music, end by welcoming you as one of Johnny’s newest fans. Since that now directly applies to me, I thinks it’s appropriate for me to say “Thank you Carol”.
To find out more about Johnny Riley just go to www.johnnyrileymusic.com. After you tell him the Blewzzman sent you, please tell him I’ll be looking for his name – in several categories – on next years Blues Music Awards ballot.
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © July 2015. Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
“Johnny I have just listened to all the tracks, the cd is one of the finest I have ever heard, the music is great and your voice is as good as the super stars.” – George Thorogood from the UK.
The Netherlands Radio Zuidplas says “Upon hearing the fantastic voice of Johnny Riley it is the clear, this singer is born for the blues. What a crushing impression the voice makes. The album ‘Crossroads Of My Life ‘ let’s us hear how a blues album is supposed to sound like. The texts have content, are sung with conviction and the band is in great shape. Impressive are the numbers ‘ No Letter Blues “and” John The Revelator ” are both very personal in nature, ‘ No Letter Blues “is about how the singer was abandoned by his wife while ‘ John The Revelator is an ode to his parents. In all ways, this is a great album.” –Rudolf van der Ree -Netherlands
Billy Hutchinson, journalist with "Blues Matters" magazine which is a 2007 "Keeping the Blues Alive Award Recipient says “Johnny Riley is a Southern US jukebox, melding roots music as well as capable of playing single genre country, blues, gospel, or bluegrass. With his Father from Texas, and his Mother, Clarksdale born and bred, his roots are deep. Johnny is a guitarist/singer and neither talent is playing catch up. Johnny Riley’s music is well written, strident and he isn’t pussy footing. The deal is real from this Texan straight shooter”.
Eric Sabry with Rootstime in Belgium & the Netherlands says in a review “Johnny Riley finds the ideal mix between Texas and Mississippi …the CD confirms his singing qualities “he is a fine musician and more”…http://www.rootstime.be/
Rudolf van der Ree – The Netherlands Radio Zuidplas says “Upon hearing the fantastic voice of Johnny Riley it is the clear, this singer is born for the blues. What a crushing impression the voice makes.
“Smokestack Lightnin’s Top 10 New Blues CD’s for this week includes Johnny Riley/Crossroads of My Life/Mississippi Delta Blues Music.
“Gil Anthony's Blues Power Top 30 for June 2015 - Who's on Top! Post in Jazz and Blues Florida includes Johnny Riley/Crossroads of My Life”.
Confessing The Blues Radio Network says, "One Hell of a Blues Man that has yet to Find His Due .... Johnny Riley ... Check out the New Album .... "Crossroads of Life" John Riley is Raw, Ruff & Ready .....” -Cleve Baker Houstin
"Johnny Riley is the Real Deal". CEO Ranch Records -Dixon Shanks
"VERY ENTERTAINING" "A true and authentic Country Blues Artist" " A student of Americana" Lufkin Daily news -Camille Elington
“ Johnny I have just listened to all the tracks, the CD is one of the finest I have ever heard, the music is great and your voice is as good as the super stars. -George Thorogood.
"Blues/Rockin Country --No matter what box u put it in --JOHNNY RILEY will Kick it open and ROCK YOU." - San Erikssone Kicks 105