Looking for a Party
It’s East not West Texas that’s known as a blues hotbed, but Long John Hunter (born in 1931 in Louisiana) staked his claim in the hardscrabble juke joints of El Paso and Juárez, most notably the Lobby Bar. Hunter’s raucous thirteen-year, seven-night-a-week tenure there, which began in 1957, is the stuff of regional legend. He drew in the best: Etta James, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Gatemouth Brown, even Buddy Holly. Despite this, and a 1954 single on Duke Records as well as later releases on Alligator, Hunter remains a benchwarmer on the national blues scene, without even a Wikipedia entry to his name. Which is a shame, because as Looking for a Party (Blues Express) shows, Hunter is ever the natural, expressive talent. He lays down an affable and fluid swing and pours his heart into his R&B-infused vocals, sounding at times like a young Sam Cooke. His understated guitar work is also impressive, and though the songs themselves are merely passable, their vibe perfectly suits Hunter’s strengths. The album is not earthshaking, but its charm is a far cry from the clichés that dominate the present-day blues scene.