It’s hard to pinpoint why time has not built the reputation of Houston’s Johnny “Guitar” Watson. It’s not that Watson wasn’t influential—artists from Jimi Hendrix to Etta James gave him his due—and it wasn’t for a lack of hits. His seventies funk period, now collected in The Funk Anthology (Shout Factory), kept him camped at the top of the charts. A biting blues guitarist and a prodigious multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and composer, Watson was a mercurial artist who constantly swapped styles and labels. Unapologetically modern—nowhere more so than on these sides originally recorded for the DJM label—he shunned the factories of Stax, Motown, and P-Funk and found his own irreverent hard groove, one that played like a crossbreed of James Brown and T-Bone Walker. If you’d forgotten all about Watson, here’s a real mother for ya. J.M.
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