Rockin’ Johnny Burgin at the Rhythm Room – March 9, 2019

We all see ordinary talent in shows around town but there are a few bands that will draw me out late at night every time they tour because of their artistry and Rockin’ Johnny is definitely one. When I saw that he was playing the Rhythm Room, definitely the best place to see a band in Phoenix, I made it a date. The club was packed and I sat in the corner because I arrived just before the show started but I wouldn’t miss it. Johnny came on stage carrying his classic Emperor and his classic tone. He did a short set, maybe 6 or 8 tracks and he didn’t take a note to get on track. He was hitting on 12 cylinders from note one. I don’t know if you’ve seen Johnny, but this is a guy who is all about style. He isn’t Jeff Beck who wrote every trick in the books, nor Joe Bonamassa who plays every Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton riff. This is a pure Chicago blues guy who has been around the block and has assembled some absolutely terrific old style riffs that he applies at just the right time and in style. He’s a serious player and an excellent singer. I don’t think that he knows how good a singer he is having played lead guitar behind leaders like Tail Dragger but this guys vocals are strong and sometimes downright exceptional. But the really cool part about Johnny’s playing is his style. Here’s a guy who is standing up with a band of 3, carrying most of the weight himself, and then just blowing out a riff that curls your hair. We’re not talking about blistering speed like a metal rocker. We’re talking old school riffs that make you go…wow…that was a great riff and the man can go! But here’s the great part… after he plays it, he seems to look around quietly and say to himself… I did it… and smile with accomplishment.  No pretense…pure love for his trade. The band took a short break and then club owner and world renown harp player Bob Corritore stepped up to the mic announcing that they had some surprises for the crowd. Due to a larger blues event, Blues Bash, that was happening in Phoenix this weekend, there were a number of performers on hand. A man with deep blues roots and quite a pedigree, Jimi “Prime Time” Smith was there and took the stage with Rockin’ Johnny and Corritore. The crowd really loved Smith with is silky vocals and license plate guitar. He put on a really good show including walking the audience while playing and singing.

Johnny Main, guitar and lead vocals of the 44’s set up (using Rockin’ Johnny’s guitar) and a really hot guitar player that I hadn’t seen, Henry Carvahal (Rod Piazza Mighty Flyers among others) was on fire. This guy is a powerhouse and has great hands. matched with the balance of RJB’s band these guys were electric.

After another short break, Rockin’ Johnny took the stage again with Corritore, and local blues legends, singer George Bowman, and guitar player Donnie Dean. This bands focus was primarily prime Chicago style blues providing a stable base for players who don’t play together daily and Corritore’s harp work was really strong. Bowman’s vocals were solid and guitar exchanges between Dean and Burgin really cool. After maybe another 5 tracks, Burgin took the stage back to his basic 3 piece ensemble and closed out the night. He brought along a solid bodied Danelectro and in open tuning, played some really nice slide. Johnny really knows how to put on a show and with a sea of talent in the room, this was a really great show for what is a fairly small club. This was likely one of the best blues shows in Phoenix for 2019. If it sounds like I had fun, I rolled into bed around 2am. This band literally played till shutdown. Very very nice. Watch for a review of Corritore’s upcoming release, Do The Hip-Shake Baby! in the next few weeks.