'Mr. Lucky'; John Lee Hooker; Pointblank. A smattering of recent releases gives a taste of styles ranging from blues, folk, musical theater, classical, rap, and rock. The writers share 11 compact discs they find noteworthy.
Love and highways.If John Lee Hooker's new album is any indication, the passions of youth never find the off-ramp. In what may have been the spinoff of a Madison Square Garden tribute to Hooker last year, Robert Cray, Ry Cooder, Van Morrison, Carlos Santana, Keith Richards, Booker T. Jones, and several others bend their strings with one of the last great original Delta blues men. Hooker lets his distinguished guests augment his own sound with theirs on "Mr. Lucky," producing an album that ranges from raucous boogie to sweet soul to pile-driving blues. From the first note of "I Want to Hug You" to the last note of "Father Was a Jockey," each track is layered with the riffs that defined southern blues and added a hard edge to rock-and-roll. John Lee Hooker was born in Clarksdale, Miss., a town renowned in blues history. The likes of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters played its clubs. Hooker, along with Lightnin' Hopkins and a few others, emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s with a rough and raw southern blues sound that reached beyond New Orleans and Memphis to New York and Chicago. Their style directly influenced budding white rock musicians like Carl Perkins. Hooker's style is unmistakable. His hallmark is a repetitive full-bodied rhythm line, often hammered down without ever changing chords. His voice can be equally drawling, as is the case with "Highway 13" and "Father Was a Jockey." But as he proves in "I Cover the Waterfront," a duet with guitarist Van Morrison, Hooker has soulful inflections rarely heard today. "I Want to Hug You" and "Crawlin' Kingsnake," are the kind of rhythm and blues tracks that could have inspired younger artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan. With "Mr. Lucky," the Mississippi mojo man - who pioneered his own brand of blues and in the process lent a hand in the creation of rock-and-roll - shows no signs of slowing or softening. His creative edge is as sharp as ever.