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Album Review

It would be wrong to say that Johnny Heartsman died young, although he died at a relatively young age — Heartsman was 59 when the blues world lost him on December 27, 1996. You can certainly call his death premature, and you can say that he was at the height of his creative powers during the last years of his life. Recorded live at Vitischanze — a club in Osnabrück, Germany — in 1993, this album is a thoroughly rewarding document of the bluesman's late period. Heartsman's voice is in fine shape throughout his diverse set, and he is as confident on the guitar as he is on organ and flute. Although Made in Germany is a blues CD first and foremost, it's a blues CD that underscores his appreciation of jazz and soul. Heartsman's inspired performances of Junior Parker's "I Don't Want No Woman" and Albert Collins' "Cold Cold Feeling" are pure electric urban blues, but on the standard "Flip, Flop & Fly," the Californian reminds listeners how nicely he could handle jazz-influenced jump blues. Meanwhile, elements of soul, jazz, and blues come together on an instrumental version of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," which gives Heartsman a chance to stretch out on flute. Very few bluesmen have been known for their flute playing, but in Heartsman's funky hands, the flute sounded perfectly logical as a blues instrument. Made in Germany makes one wish that he had recorded a lot more live albums during his career.

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 solo on flute (perhaps the unlikeliest blues instrument imaginable). He possessed a mellow, richly burnished voice to boot. ...
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Made In Germany, Johnny Heartsman
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