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Johnson returns to Midwest roots

April 18, 2019 GMT

As a musician, Jeremiah Johnson has never been afraid to take chances.

The young bluesman from St. Louis will bring his Jeremiah Johnson Band for a Friends of the Blues’ debut performance at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Kankakee Valley Boat Club. Johnson is known for his singing ability, focusing on a combination of St. Louis and Mississippi River blues and southern rock.

“He’s very popular,” said James Walker, co-founder of the Friends of the Blues. “I’m expecting a great turnout.”

Johnson, 47, signed with Ruf Records just more than a year ago and released his sixth studio album, “Straitjacket.” It features Johnson’s passionate songwriting, powerful voice and commanding guitar work, according to a Friends of the Blues news release.

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“Straitjacket” debut at No. 1 on iTunes New Blues Releases and at No. 6 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart. It also spent many weeks in the top of the Roots Music Report: Blues Albums.

Sandwiched in between two European tours, Johnson is performing nine Midwest shows in April (two duo shows and seven with the full band) before he heads back to Europe. The tour is titled, “3 Weeks in the Midwest,” and it includes Thursday’s show in Kankakee. Admission is $10.

He began learning guitar at age 6, drawing inspiration from his rich blues heritage and legendary guitarists, such as Alvin Lee, Eric Clapton and Hank Williams Sr. and Jr. With those influences, Johnson began building his musical foundation, according to his bio on jeremiahjohnson.com.

After relocating to Houston in 1999, Johnson finished first for three consecutive years at the Houston Regional Blues Challenges, sponsored by the Houston Blues Society. Johnson returned to St. Louis in 2009, and merged Texas style with St. Louis blues to create the sound you hear today. The 10 years Johnson lived and performed in Texas changed his musical style in ways clearly heard in his music.

In 2014, Johnson filmed his docu-concert, “Ride the Blues,” directed by Gary Glenn, at the historic Capitol Theater in downtown Burlington, Iowa, according to his bio. The film is a live music video about Johnson’s rise, featuring intimate interview segments, photography, guitar solos and vocals.

In 2014, Johnson recorded “Grind,” which has been featured on SiriusXM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville and on the international radio show “Confessing the Blues.” “Grind” reached the No. 8 slot on the Billboard Blues Charts in November 2015.

Johnson followed the success of “Grind” with a self-produced release, “Blues Heart Attack,” in July 2016.

“It’s a combination of our earlier works and then ‘Grind,’” Johnson explained in his bio.

“Blues Heart Attack” reached No. 5 on the Billboard Blues Charts.

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