Donald Ray Johnson Travelin' Man

Living in Calgary from the early ’90s onwards, Johnson is a highly regarded drummer and vocalist. An African-American born in Bryan, TX, he’s worked with many R&B and blues musicians since beginning his career at the age of 14, performing and recording with Lowell Fulson, Phillip Walker, Bobby Womack and A Taste of Honey, with whom he won a Grammy Award in 1979. Travelin’ Man is his fourth solo CD and its 12-song play list reflects Johnson’s diverse musical experiences of the past 40 years, featuring a mixture of straight-ahead blues shuffles and rockers combined with soul and contemporary R&B compositions, even an acoustic ballad. While the listening experience is a little jarring at times, as the song sequence doesn’t always flow well from one track to the next, the recording is actually a very accurate snapshot of today’s contemporary blues scene. The success of Travelin’ Man is based on Johnson’s warm, supple tenor voice. Stepping out from behind the drum kit, it’s always front and centre and he conveys an emotional commitment even to over-recorded standards like Fulson’s "Reconsider Baby” or Elmore James’s "Yonder Wall.” But the track list primarily features new songs and lesser known covers and it’s here that he comes across best, from the barroom pathos of "Me & Jack” to the resilient "Last Two Dollars,” first recorded by Johnnie Taylor. Chicago guitarist Maurice John Vaughn anchors the session with a select group of Alberta’s finest blues/R&B session musicians. Worth seeking out. (Independent)