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CD review -- John Primer


All Original
Blues House Productions
John Primer CD art


By Mark Baier

To the denizens of Chicago's storied Blues clubs, John Primer is a familiar face, reliable and true. But to a worldwide audience, as an ambassador of the Blues, he has defined and epitomized the idiom as a bandleader and the sideman of choice. He possesses a depth of understanding of the genre’s subtleties and nuance that only a handful of artists can lay claim to. Primer is truly world class, and All Original, his first CD release for Blues House Production, is evidence that he is an artist in his prime, who has recorded a powerful set of sides that play like a soundtrack of Chicago; gritty and heartfelt, with a beat that swings to the pulse of our great city.


All Original is an apt name for this collection of self-penned titles from Primer, which showcases his dominion over a variety of Blues styles. Leading off is the loping, casual box shuffle “Add a Little Touch”, which could be the archetypal example of this particular style of blues. “Add A Little Touch” reinforces its signature guitar figure throughout the song against the swinging pocket rhythms of Vernon Rodgers’ bouncing snare and Michael Morrison’s bass. It is a very infectious track, weaving greazy Hammond B3 and urban harmonica licks throughout, courtesy David Ross and Melvin “Harmonica” Hinds, respectively. Although Primer’s lead guitar is not always the primary focus, it’s his steady foundation that the band feeds on.


The next cut, “Going Back to Mississippi” is a classic broom-duster shuffle, with Primer’s vocal performance taking center stage. It’s very satisfying to hear an artist sing about “going to Mississippi” after they’ve actually been born there! When John sings about the South being where he belongs, the conviction, passion and authenticity of his vocal is evident. Next up, the slow slide guitar workout “I Called My Baby”, evokes the delivery and tones of golden period Elmore without sounding derivative or rote. His complete mastery of slide guitar is on display here, with Primer pulling haunting and memorable melodies out of the guitar while his plaintive vocal reminds the listener of the daily struggles of Men, Women and Love.


“Everyday Makes a Change”, “Blue Eyed Woman”, “Say Yes, Don’t Say No” and “Keep on Lovin’ the Blues” all speak to Primer’s respect for Muddy Waters’ ensemble style, and here his peerless pedigree is on full display. On “Other Man’ and “The Woman I’m Loving”, Primer’s single string prowess is featured, mixing West Side and Soul grooves to the palette. Three decades and thousands of gigs spent with Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Magic Slim wear themselves well here; it’s quite clear that Primer knows this material from its source.


“At Home Alone” is a slow, late night grinder that weaves its minor-key melodies seamlessly; Primer’s sinewy guitar lines coax and lead Hinds’ chromatic trills and Ross’s rich, satisfying B3 work.


Closing All Original is the country blues “Love In My Heart For You”. Primer and his acoustic guitar, accompanied by Hinds on harmonica, deviate from the preceding urban blues styles; instead he mines the prewar Delta styles that obviously resonate deeply in his heart.


All Original, in addition to its exceptional performances, is also a treat to listen to. The production quality is quite frankly remarkable for a Blues release; the instruments are open and extended in the mix and individual definition and clarity are outstanding. When listening at volume through a “reference sound system”, the feeling of “being there” is very convincing. It’s as if you spent the night listening to the world’s best blues at Theresa’s, Rosa’s or the Mines, only in your living room. This is John Primer’s All Original gift to the Blues Community.  One of the best Blues releases of a generation!  A must have!  5 stars.


Mark Baier is the owner of Victoria Ampilfier Co., the official supplier of guitar amps to the stars. A lifelong musician and mystifying Oracle, Baier spends his spare time balancing the dichotomous struggle between God and Man. He can be reached at: and critiqued at



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