Toronzo Cannon - John The Conquer Root
  • 01 John the Conquer Root
  • 02 I've Been Doing Fine
  • 03 Cold World
  • 04 Gentle Reminder
  • 05 If You're Woman Enough to Leave Me
  • 06 Shame
  • 07 You Made Me This Way
  • 08 Been Better to You
  • 09 Big Ray Bop
  • 10 Let It Shine Always
  • 11 Sweet, Sweet, Sweet
  • 12 Root to the Fruit...She's Mine (Reprise)
  • 01 John the Conquer Root
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (06:20) [18.27 MB]
  • 02 I've Been Doing Fine
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (05:42) [16.84 MB]
  • 03 Cold World
    Genre: R&B
    MP3 (05:08) [15.54 MB]
  • 04 Gentle Reminder
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (05:08) [15.52 MB]
  • 05 If You're Woman Enough to Leave Me
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (03:58) [12.84 MB]
  • 06 Shame
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (04:50) [14.85 MB]
  • 07 You Made Me This Way
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (05:58) [17.43 MB]
  • 08 Been Better to You
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (04:39) [14.43 MB]
  • 09 Big Ray Bop
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (05:13) [15.71 MB]
  • 10 Let It Shine Always
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (03:05) [10.83 MB]
  • 11 Sweet, Sweet, Sweet
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (04:59) [15.18 MB]
  • 12 Root to the Fruit...She's Mine (Reprise)
    Genre: Blues
    MP3 (02:58) [10.58 MB]
Click Here for more Delmark Releases!

Toronzo Cannon
John The Conquer Root
Delmark DE 831

1. John The Conquer Root 6:17
2. I’ve Been Doing Fine 5:40
3. Cold World 5:06
4. Gentle Reminder 5:05
5. If You’re Woman Enough To Leave Me 4:04
6. Shame 4:47
7. You Made Me This Way 5:55
8. Been Better To You 4:36
9. Big Ray Bop 5:10
10. Let It Shine Always 3:06
11. Sweet, Sweet, Sweet 4:51
12. Root To The Fruit…She’s Mine (reprise) 2:51

All songs by Toronzo Cannon, Cannonball Express, ASCAP

Toronzo Cannon, vocals, lead guitar
Lawrence Gladney, rhythm guitar
Roosevelt Purifoy, organ, piano
Larry Williams, Dave Forte (2,7,9,11), bass
Brian “BJ” Jones, drums

Joanna Connor, vocal (10), guitar (10,11)
Omar Coleman, harmonica (1,6,9)
Kenny Anderson, trumpet, horn arrangements (3,8)
Norman Palm, trombone (3,8)
Dudley Owens, tenor sax (3,8)
Jerry DiMuzio, baritone sax (3,8)
Kay Reed, backup vocals (3,12), backup arrangement (3)
Theresa Davis, backup vocals (3,12)
Vanessa Holmes, backup vocals (3,12)
Mike Wheeler, vocal (10)
Frank Corpus, congas (3)

Produced by Toronzo Cannon and Steve Wagner
Album Production and Supervision: Robert G. Koester
Recorded at Riverside Studio, Chicago on March 7 & 8, 2013 by Steve Wagner

Mixed and mastered by Steve Wagner
Mix assistant: Dave Katzman
Photography: Chris Monaghan, MoPho
Design: Dave Forte

Growing up on the Chicago’s south side, armed with the gift of gab and a people person demeanor, Toronzo Cannon wanted to be a social worker. A teacher accused him of wearing his feelings on his sleeve and young Toronzo figured he’d channel that sensitivity. Decades later, those same qualities have equipped him with the perfect skills for a modern bluesman.
“I read, I look, I’m left-handed, and I’m observant,” Cannon says of his standout songwriting and guitar playing. A CTA bus driver for over 20 years, his keen eyes and ears combine with his emotional awareness to turn bus-scene snippets, friends’ situations, and personal experience into the kind of blues tunes that inspire repeat listening. “When I’m on the bus, I take notes at the red light,” he says. “I have the notes for the guts of six songs in my pocket right now.” His off-kilter, left-handed perspective seems to supply his music with an unexpectedly fresh take that truly represents 21st century blues.
However, being a bluesman wasn’t even a consideration for Cannon until he started playing guitar at 22. Although he grew up in the shadows of the iconic Theresa’s Lounge, with his uncles regularly joining the jam sessions, Cannon didn’t realize those influences until much later.
“My uncle Ricky was a barback who sometimes filled in for bands playing drums and my uncle Peewee was a ladies man who was always at Theresa’s,” he recalls. “Baldwin’s Ice Cream was down the street and we’d go at night to get waffle cones and I’d lean over the banister [at Theresa's] and see my uncles. I’d hear the blues streaming out, but I didn’t really know who was playing.” Between those late-night excursions and his grandfather’s blues records, Cannon absorbed a blues foundation that would later serve him well.
“I listen to a lot of blues stations on satellite [radio] and everyone seems to be singing about ‘my woman left me,’” he says, explaining his songwriting technique. “I put in a lot more detail to make people flinch and say, ‘Ooh, he’s looking though my window.’ I just take whatever the standard is and go somewhere else. I don’t want to go in the same direction; it’s too predictable. I ask myself, ‘What would a left-handed, Aquarian bluesman do?’”
Apparently, such a bluesman would make sure that his music respected the past while saluting the future with modern-day observances. Another track, “Shine,” underscores the point by tackling death – that old blues trope – with an unexpected treatment. A delicate ballad with three separate stories sung by Cannon’s Chicago blues comrades Mike Wheeler and Joanna Connor, the song addresses suicide, biracial issues, and Armenian history in one well-structured swoop.
“I was thinking of three different ways that people die,” Cannon says of the inspiration for the song. “I don’t like my voice in certain settings, like a soft tone, so I asked Mike and Joanna to sing with me. I sing the last story about Armenians. I didn’t know that they were the first Christians in a land full of Muslims. They got slaughtered, but it’s not so much about religion as it is intolerance. I wrote the story about the biracial issues because I have a biracial daughter and Joanna has two biracial kids. There are three stories cutting into the next in one song.
Cannon cites Jimi Hendrix as a major influence on his songwriting and fretwork. “I used to watch old blues videos to observe how they played because I think in images, and the blues is visual as well as audible. I’d watch videos of Muddy [Waters], Gatemouth Brown and Snooks Eaglin – this was before YouTube,” he says. “Then I came across a video by the guy named Jimi Hendrix. It freaked me out; it hit me in my chest. It was beautiful to look at while you listened to it.”
Cannon’s dynamic stage presence clearly recalls Hendrix, but he also appreciates the ’60s legend’s wordplay. “In ‘Voodoo Child, (Slight Return),’ people listen and think it’s all psychedelic, but dig the words,” he says. “It was a revolutionary song; ‘raising sand’ is a Southern term for a fight.”
The cultural references and vivid imagery used by Hendrix and bluesmen before and after him are most prominent in the stunning title track of Cannon’s album. “John The Conquer Root” throbs with Delta heat and striking blues phrasing. The stinging guitar, eerie harp playing, and haunting tale of working a spell with “a piece of your hair in the palm of my hand,” echoes with the essence of the young blues upstart.
“Gentle Reminder” supplies fitting commentary on who Toronzo Cannon is and what he plays: “I shouldn’t have to say this/ but I’m a blues man through and through/ it’s in my walk and my talk/ and the way I play my blues/…my friends say/ why you play the way you do/ I say the blues gotta move on/ this ain’t 1952”. Thanks to his finely honed talents, the blues is indeed moving on, in an exciting direction.
At 45, Cannon has dedicated decades of practice and experience to his craft. “I know what I like to hear and I know that it’s the major chords that give me goose bumps,” he says of his playing style. Although his devoted following comments profusely on his daily thought-provoking statuses on Facebook, he considers himself a humble, if thoroughly modern, bluesman. “I’m just a bus driver who plays the guitar,” he says. “I want to do my part to keep the genre alive, especially the Chicago blues genre.”

- Rosalind Cummings-Yeates, June 2013

Other Delmark albums of Interest:
Toronzo Cannon, Leaving Mood (817)
Mike Wheeler, Self Made Man (824)
Linsey Alexander, Been There Done That (822)
Sharon Lewis & Texas Fire, The Real Deal (816)
Quintus McCormick, Still Called The Blues (821)
Put It On Me (815); Hey Jodie! (801)
Demetria Taylor, Bad Girl (814)
Robert Ward, New Role Soul (741)
Junior Wells, Hoodoo Man Blues (612) with Buddy Guy
Magic Sam, West Side Soul (615)
Otis Rush, All Your Love I Miss Loving (781)

4121 N. Rockwell,
Chicago, IL 60618
CP 2013 Delmark Records

  • Members:
    Toronzo Cannon, Shy Gladney, Larry Williams, BJ Jones, Joanna Connor, Roosevelt Purifoy, Dave Forte, Omar Coleman
  • Sounds Like:
    Chicago blues
  • Influences:
    blues, r&b, rock
  • AirPlay Direct Member Since:
  • Profile Last Updated:
    05/15/24 16:42:14

"Radio Creds" are votes awarded to artists by radio programmers who have downloaded their music and have been impressed with the artist's professionalism and the audience's response to the new music. Creds help artists advance through the AirPlay Direct community.

Only radio accounts may add a Radio Cred. One week after the track has been downloaded the radio account member will receive an email requesting a Cred for each artist they've downloaded.