NORMAN — by Doug Hill
Musician: Johnny Cox
Album name: Thin Blue line
Why you should listen: Johnny Cox follows in the long line of UK residents who’ve developed a love for American blues music. His first album “Thin Blue Line” is both a welcome addition to the venerable genre’s canon and a strong statement of a musician’s individual personality.
Cox is somewhat stingy with biographical specifics except for the fact that he’s originally from Scotland and came to Canada in 1985. He appears to be early 40s with an impressive mane of below-shoulder hair. Cox is lead vocalist on all 11 of these original compositions and there’s no trace of the Highlands in his pipes. He probably considers himself more guitarist than vocalist but Cox’s journeyman-level singing is better than many in his crowded field. He was wise to include back-up vocalists on nearly every track and in attractive particular Shelley Zubot. It was a common practice to great effect for decades in blues, soul and rock but inexplicably fell out of favor for a time.
There are plenty of guitar heroics throughout these songs. “Didn’t Commit The Crime” even utilizes being at home playing guitar as alibi for avoiding prosecution for some unnamed felony. As demonstration, Cox plays a note-bending guitar solo sure to convince even the most skeptical judge. His songwriting adheres to the simpler-is-stronger formula. Similar to the lack of details in his biography, the lyrics tend to be bare bones as well. “New Way” is about finding a fresh world-changing method of living but it’s never revealed what exactly that involves. To his credit Cox thanks girlfriend Danielle Di Vincenzo in the liner notes “…For helping me to become a better word-smith…” There’s also the rare-these-days booklet of song lyrics tucked in the CD package. The title track is clear as azure sky and goes to the soul of the blues, learning to understand and care for each other.
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