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The Touch

Johnny Heartsman

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Album Review

Few electric bluesman have been more versatile than Johnny Heartsman, and that versatility is impossible miss on The Touch. Recorded when Heartsman was 54, this unpredictable CD finds the singer incorporating soul and funk as well as rock and jazz and playing guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, and flute. Heartsman (who shouldn't be confused with the late jazz singer Johnny Hartman) gets into a soul-minded groove on "Got to Find My Baby" and "You're so Fine," while "Attitude," "Walkin' Blues," and "Paint My Mailbox Blue" favor a hard-swinging blues/jazz approach à la Jimmy Witherspoon. Those jazz-influenced selections make it sound like Heartsman is backed by a soul-jazz organ combo, but in fact, there is no organist on this CD—rather, Heartsman uses his keyboards to emulate a Jimmy Smith/Jack McDuff type of Hammond B-3 sound. Meanwhile, instrumentals like the moody "Tongue" and the funk-drenched "Oops" illustrate his mastery of the flute; an unlikely instrument for a bluesman, to be sure. But then, certain jazz improvisers have demonstrated how funky the flute can sound — most notably, Herbie Mann, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Hubert Laws — and similarly, the flute sounds like a very natural, logical blues instrument in Heartsman's risk-taking hands. Superb from start to finish, The Touch makes one wish that the late Californian had done a lot more recording as a leader.

Biography

Born: 09 February 1937 in San Fernando, CA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Shaven-headed Johnny Heartsman did so many musical things so well that he's impossible to pigeonhole. His low-moaning lead guitar work greatly distinguished a myriad of Bay Area blues recordings during the '50s and '60s, and still played his axe with delicious dexterity and dynamics into the '90s. But Heartsman was just as likely to cut loose on organ or blow a titillating...
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The Touch, Johnny Heartsman
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