Home Read Classic Album Review: David Johansen & The Harry Smiths | Shaker

Classic Album Review: David Johansen & The Harry Smiths | Shaker

The former New York Doll reinvents himself (again) as a grizzled Delta bluesman.

This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Forget the New York Dolls. And — thankfully — forget New York d-bag Buster Poindexter. Meet the new (and much improved) David Johansen: Grizzled Delta bluesman.

Fronting his latest band The Harry Smiths — named for the musicologist who assembed the seminal American Anthology of Folk Music — Johansen puts his big, blustery baritone to work on this second album, revisiting classics from the pens of Furry Lewis (Furry’s Blues), Son House (Death Letter), Lightnin’ Hopkins (My Grandpa is Too Old), Mississippi John Hurt (Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me) and Charley Patton (High Sheriff). Howling, barking and moaning the natch’l blues as the slide guitars wail and the band kicks like a rented mule, Johansen digs deep and delivers his finest work in decades, inbuing lines like, “I believe I’ll buy me a graveyard of my own / And kill everybody that has done me wrong,” with enough threat and malice to make you cross the street to avoid him. Sure, it just might be another one of Johansen’s musical characters — but at least it’s a memorable one.