Notes on the Recordings
All of the above three tunes lead me to wonder what took the blues cognoscenti all those years to "discover" a man of such obvious talents?
A spiky guitar intro heralds the arrival of Copeland's fried-in-batter re-make of Lady Day's standard "Ain't Nobody's Business", which builds nicely to a sanctified crescendo and closes out the blues quartet. Three of the next four numbers ("I've Gotta Go Home"; "Hurt, Hurt, Hurt"; "Somethin' You Get") are reminiscent of the Duke/Peacock big-band R&B sound pioneered by that label's legendary in-house bandleader, Joe Scott. "Somethin'" in particular finds Copeland in good voice, the band in fine fettle (especially the sax-man). The above tunes focus almost exclusively on Johnny's under-rated vocal abilities. This man could sing, guitar-god status notwithstanding!
The odd tune out of this quartet, "Slow Walk You Down", is something of an oddity in that it would not sound particularly out of place on side two of Abbey Road.
Next we move to a duet of touching eulogies to those who preceded Copeland in the pantheon, made all the sadder by Johnny's recent death. The "Johnny Ace Medley" is also an utterly romantic slow-dance number, a smooth remembrance of the Bayou City's suave, tragic balladeer. Ace was found dead backstage at a Christmas Eve concert in 1954, his record atop the R&B charts, supposedly the victim of an unlucky game of Russian Roulette. It was whispered at the time, though never proven, that there were darker forces at work (read: Duke/Peacock boss Don Robey had him "whacked".) At any rate, like Sam Cooke's, Ace's early death robbed the world of years of great music.
"Coquette" and "Don't Tell Me" showcase Copeland very much in a Crescent City frame of mind. These are mellow, elegiac gulf coast R&B selections with Johnny's guitar accompanying an unknown singer. Each of these displays a strong affinity for Fats Domino, with the latter cut also a little reminiscent of that other Gulf Coast boxing bluesman, Champion Jack Dupree.
"Four Dried Beans" is an organ-driven rave-up, while the Everlys get the deep-fried Bayou City treatment on Copeland's version of their classic, "Wake Up Little Susie". A bare-bones dance number, "The Hip Hop", closes out the album's original material.
~John Nova Lomax, September 1998