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Gary Rocks Robert Johnson at Lincoln Center

On Sept. 14th, the Lucas manchild ruled the Noo Yawk roost at the New Sounds Live Guitar Festival's "At the Crossroads: A Tribute to Robert Johnson" concert at Lincoln Center's Merkin Hall. Sharing a bill with Toshi Reagon and one of Gary's original guitar heroes, former Pentangle axe whiz John Renbourn, Gary was in fine form both in the interview segment with host John Schaefer (cracking up John and the sold- out audience with some off-the-cuff ripostes: to whit, John: "Gary, it seems everything you play, from traditional folk to your most off-the-wall creations, is touched by the Blues—why is that?" Gary: "I'm Jewish..."), and in his 25 minute solo set, where he performed a blistering rendition on the National steel of his "Robert's Johnson" (from Skeleton at the Feast), interpolating quotes from everything from "Tradition" (Fiddler on the Roof) to "Dueling Banjos" in the midst of his maniacal R. Johnson homage. This was followed by 2 songs with an incredible young new singer/protege, Ellis Hooks, a half-Cherokee son of an Alabama sharecropper who belted forth soulful renditions of "Sweet Home Chicago" and "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day" to the delight of the crowd and radio listening audience, Gary performing n his GibsonJ-45 and Stratocaster respectively. Then it was time to take the gloves off and get rowdy with an intense, spooky version of Johnson's signature showstopper "Hellhound on My Trail", where Gary summoned forth the ghosts of the Mississippi Delta in an astonishing display of bottleneck guitar wizardry and electronic pyrotechnics, sequing neatly into an intense workout on his original blues composition "One Man's Meat". This was followed by an ovation from the Merkin Concert Hall audience. Gary dedicated his set to his former partner and collaborator, the late Jeff Buckley. Thanks to David Spelman for organizing such a splendid evening.