Boom Boom

John Lee Hooker is the last of the classic Mississippi Delta blues guitarists, the unaccompanied bards who could generate more energy sitting on a low stool and playing an acoustic than most rock bands can summon up going full tilt. He has been one of the most prolific recording artists of his generation, rivaling Lightnin' Hopkins for the number of pseudonyms under which his records have appeared. Hooker's droning, incantatory single-note style wreathes his threatening, half-muttered stories and laments in an aura of mystery, forcing the listener into rapt attention, hanging on every word.

But that's only part of the story. As great as Hooker's solo work is, his irresistible uptempo shuffle boogie is his most enduring trademark, a simple piece of magic that translates effortlessly into full-band arrangements. Hooker's relentless boogie is as much a staple in rock history as Chuck Berry's signature song structure.

Boom Boom, Hooker's latest, showcases both his brooding and boogieing styles effectively, as John Lee proves he's lost none of his musical vitality forty-five years after recording his first hit, "Boogie Chillun." His spooky solo style is well represented on "I'm Bad Like Jesse James," "Sugar Mama," the fatalistic "Hittin' the Bottle Again" and the sepulchral, dreamlike "Thought I Heard," which is punctuated by the eerie walls of Charlie Musselwhite's harmonica.

Hooker rocks out on the rest of the album backed by his working group, as well as guitarists Jimmie Vaughan on the title track, Robert Cray on "Same Old Blues Again," Albert Collins on "Boogie at Russian Hill" and John Hammond on "Bottle Up and Go." It's the same old blues again, indeed, awe inspiring as ever.