Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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JOHN LEE HOOKER
Hooker
Shout! Factory

Son of a sharecropper ran away at 15 and never saw his mother again

Dead at 83 in 2001, John Lee Hooker transformed the unflappability of his drawl and the unstoppability of his beat into good records for half a century. Mississippi primitive turned man of the world, he boogied solo and combo, with white blues bands and superstars. Though there were classic songs in his kit--"Boom Boom," "I'm in the Mood," "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer"--Hooker was not a greatest-hits kind of guy, which is one reason this 84-track four-CD overview is a more enticing introduction than the 32-track Rhino twofer it blows away. Box-set excess does his magnitude justice, allowing you to luxuriate in the idiosyncrasies of his monolithic groove. Play it for five hours and you won't get bored. You'll just live in it.

Blender, Nov. 2006