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What You See

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Album Review

Is Super Chikan (aka James Johnson) a soul man or a blues man? And where's the line between the two anyway? On What You See, Chikan certainly blurs them: The title cut roars out of the blocks as if it has come straight from the funk store, a greasy wah-wah riff over some blues licks (although one of those licks sounds worryingly like the Stranglers' "Peaches") and an infectious backbeat. "Ain't Nobody" brings in some great horns, straight out of the Stax studio, while "El Camino" comes close to surf blues over a New Orleans second-line rhythm. In other words, Super Chikan isn't a big believer in boundaries, and he continues to cross them at will throughout the disc — which makes for some wonderful listening. "Okie Doak" is pure soul-blues, "Good Thing" could teach a lot of rockers how to approach the blues — it needs to be laid-back like this — and "You Said" gives it up on one of the funkiest basslines ever to emerge. There's plenty of '60s and '70s influence running through this, like the playful 12-bar synthesizer line on "Willie Brown Jr.," which tends to distract from some fine blues guitar work from the man himself, stretching out a little and showing excellent taste and chops. "Big Boy Now" takes an archetypal blues riff, and while it doesn't add anything new, it does generate plenty of excitement, with the inevitable rooster crows (a Chikan trademark), and a humorous lyric about country music and yodeling. It all rounds out with "Fighting Cock," with a riff any bluesman would give his eye teeth for, not taken too seriously (another Chikan trademark), stripped-down to the point of falling apart, and a guaranteed good time for all. Soul to blues and back again, Chikan knows his way around the rootsy side of music.

Biography

Born: 16 February 1951 in Darling, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Super Chikan, born James Louis Johnson, was one of the more acclaimed emerging blues performers of the late '90s. His small-combo, good-humored blues has a funky touch. As an instrumentalist, he's distinguished not so much by his style as his equipment: his "Chicantars" are constructed with flattened gas can bodies. Super Chikan worked as a cab driver, truck...
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What You See, Super Chikan
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