John Egan Turns the Blues Black on Amulet
It's a crime that I've been up till now unaware of bluesman John Egan, but I'm hoping to rectify that by taking a deep look into his latest album Amulet. If you ask me, Houston's greatest unsung treasure is the sheer number of folks that we have that can take you out of the blue and into the black with little more than a voice and a guitar. Shellee Coley, Tomas Glass, and of course Jandek to name just a few. Few do it with such mastery of the guitar part as Egan, though.
Photos courtesy of South Central Music
If you're the type that needs to skip to a track to get to the meat as fast as you can, then definitely the highlight of the record is "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean." Of the 11 tracks on Amulet, the old Blind Lemon Jefferson standard is probably the most straightforward blues song. But God in Heaven and all His angels, the production on the song is something from outside the realm of this world.
You can probably guess from the title that it's a death tune, but that's like calling the sun a fire. With a devilish fiddle backing him up, Egan picks his way through a broken life, pulling bits of the Bible from here and there trying to add up some meaning to death itself. I'd compare it to some of those amazing old chain gang tunes like "Ain't No More Cane." That's great blues, right there, when a song doesn't even bother with forgiveness and cuts straight to a minor request about a tomb. Desolate stuff, and unforgettable.
There's up moments, too, though even they still have that somewhat unforgivable quality. "Evil Won't Bring Me Down" will shake the finishing nails right out of your paneling as a never-going-down anthem against evil. It's a little out of place for an otherwise more haunted and sedate collection of tunes, though it's got a nice companion track in "Shake" later on.
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