DENVER, CO (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Big Head Todd and The Monsters are throwing a 100th birthday bash for blues legend Robert Johnson on March 1st.
The party hosts have also assembled members of the ad hoc Big Head Blues Club to record a tribute album, 100 Years of Robert Johnson, featuring 10 interpretations of Johnson's hits over the past century.
Recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, and produced by Grammy award winning blues producer Chris Goldsmith (Blind Boys of Alabama), 100 Years of Robert Johnson will be released in early 2011, and supported by a national tour, “Blues at the Crossroads: The Robert Johnson Centennial Concerts” featuring many of the participants in the sessions.
Participates that make up the Big Head Blues Club are Colorado-based quartet—guitarist and vocalist Todd Park Mohr, bassist Rob Squires, drummer Brian Nevin and keyboardist Jeremy Lawton—special guests, blues legends B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin, Honeyboy Edwards and Charlie Musselwhite, as well as keepers of the blues flame Ruthie Foster, Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm.
For Mohr, who founded Big Head Todd and The Monsters with Squires and Nevin, and Goldsmith, the challenge in recording the tribute was to give new voice to Johnson’s music, to avoid copying the countless cover versions already extant.
“In so many of the takes on Robert’s stuff, you don’t get the depth of emotion that’s in the lyrics and in Robert’s voice. That’s one thing that Chris and the band and my voice were able to bring to it. Chris had great ideas about how to represent the stuff, and all the musicians were just so good at what they did, the unique arrangements just came naturally,” Mohr said in a press release.
Born in Mississippi in 1911, Johnson recorded only 29 songs, all during the years 1936 and ’37.
His unique guitar style and haunting vocal phrasing, and the evocative, often mysterious nature of his lyrics, made him a popular artist during his short time in the spotlight. A persistent tale that, as a young man, Johnson sold his soul to the Devil in order to become a more proficient musician has been attached to his biography since his untimely death at age 27—the alleged victim of a poisoning incident at the hands of the jealous husband of a woman with whom Johnson had been flirting, according to a press release.
“Blues at the Crossroads: The Robert Johnson Centennial Concerts” tour stops:
1/28 – Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA
1/29 – Orange County Performing Arts Center – Costa Mesa, CA
1/30 – Anthology – San Diego, CA (2 shows)
1/31 – Campbell Hall / UCSB – Santa Barbara, CA
2/4 – Paramount Theatre – Austin, TX
2/5 – Lakewood Theatre – Dallas, TX
2/10 – Hill Auditorium / U of M – Ann Arbor, MI
2/11 – Orchestra Hall – Chicago, IL
2/12 – Uptown Theatre – Kansas City, MO
2/13 – Riley Center / MSU – Meridian, MS
2/16 – Memorial Hall / UNC Chapel Hill – Chapel Hill, NC
2/17 – The Music Center at Strathmore – North Bethesda, MD
2/18 – Berklee School of Music – Boston, MA
2/24 – Ridgefield Playhouse – Ridgefield, CT
2/25 – McCarter Theatre – Princeton, NJ
2/26 – Montgomery County Community College – Blue Bell, PA
2/27 – Zeiterion Theater – New Bedford, MA
3/4 – Potowatomi Casino – Milwaukee, WI
3/5 – Holland Performing Arts Center – Omaha, NE
3/6 – Orchestra Hall – Minneapolis, MN
3/8 – Krannert Center, Tyrone Festival Theatre – Urbana, IL
— Crystal Lynn Huntoon