John Mooney has made his name integrating two wildly different styles: declamatory Delta blues and ebullient New Orleans R & B. He was born in New Jersey in 1955 but grew up in Syracuse, New York, where as a teenager he met legendary Delta bluesman Son House, who’d moved there from Mississippi in the 40s. Mooney began studying under House, learning the Delta fretboard style (propulsive strumming pierced by polyrhythmic treble accents and slide patterns) that the elder bluesman had pioneered. In 1976 he migrated to New Orleans, where he fell under the spell of pianist Professor Longhair, whose exuberant rumba-drenched second-line rhythms virtually defined postwar Crescent City R & B. On this year’s All I Want (Blind Pig), Mooney remains true to both his mentors. For the acoustic “Son’s Blues,” largely a pastiche of House’s lyrics, Mooney picks in Delta style, but his voice is clear and sharp–rather than screaming the blues, he sounds like he’s singing in church. On the title tune his swirling leads are punctuated by jabs and string bends, and his vocals are phlegmy and intense. “She Ain’t No Good” and “Feel Like Hollerin'” are spirited approximations of Longhair’s off-center parade beat that also recall the combination of merriment and menace that characterized the Meters in their heyday. Friday and Saturday, November 22 and 23, 9:30 PM, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Netter.