Little Johnny Kantreed
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Little Johnny Kantreed

White House, Tennessee, United States | INDIE

White House, Tennessee, United States | INDIE
Band Blues Folk


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This band has not uploaded any videos




A guy with a guitar and a dream CAN make it happen! Write some great songs and just be yourself. Players in Americana, Blues and Folk might do what Little Johnny Kantreed has done. Give this CD a listen and you will be pleasantly surprised that a hardworker can do this business, produce his own indie CD and make a difference. Lots of great lyrics and a real love for the genre, Little Johnny may not "reed", but he sure can play. He's played in the Delta and played all over the place, here with Micol Davis from Blue Mother Tupelo helping out. A definite thumbs up! - Gary W. Miller

"Music City Blues Society "Bluesletter""

Anyone who was at the MCBS Christmas party back in December 2004 at the Boardwalk Cafe might recall that Little Johnny Kantreed played an acoustic set early that evening. We didn't know it at the time, but Little Johnny previewed several songs that night from his new CD, "Acoustic Alley Blues". It is indeed a fine set of acoustic blues, just perfect for a summer's eve listen on your front porch!

Johnny's been a friend of ours for a number of years. Born and raised in the Nashville area, he spent some time as a DJ and in various bands before heeding the call of the blues. This set finds Johnny mainly using a Regal squareneck dobro or a Regal steel body resonator for thirteen cuts of prime blues, several with a sly touch of humor! He strums a banjo on two cuts, "Bird By Bird" and the hilarious self-penned "Nashville Blues", which could serve as the biography of many a Music City bluesman and the slings and arrows they suffer to play the blues!

Also, Micol Davis of Blue Mother Tupelo guests on two cuts, a Carter Family-like "Flat World", and the poignant tale of a love not meant to be, "If I Had My Way". We had several favorites, too. We've always liked Johnny's version of "Stagger Lee", which is much closer to the way the song was written, as opposed to the more popular recorded versions that exist. Johnny gives a low-down woman her walkin' papers with another of his own compositions, "When You Leave Me". The guitar here is superb, with Johnny running down the Elmore James-ish riffs. And, he tells another misleading lover that, after she decides to leave, that she "could do a lot worse" than him! Hands-down, tho, we enjoyed Johnny's take on "Relatives", who, unfortunately, "know where ya live"! This one is a real hoot, and Johnny's vocal delivery here is reminiscent of "Dear Abby"-era John Prine.

This is another finely-crafted set from one of MCBS' great talents, Little Johnny Kantreed. Get you a cold one, get in the hammock, and turn on "Acoustic Alley Blues" and....ENJOY! - Sheryl & Don Crow

"Shake Magazine"

Little Johnny Kantreed has been around the musical block, and his new CD, "Acoustic Alley Blues", brilliantly confirms his musical journey. Little Johnny's new CD demonstrates a natural, diamond-in-the-rough, retro style that is so very refreshing in this time of overly dubbed, overly polished recordings. "Acoustic Alley Blues" is a back porch, rocking-chair masterpiece that brings to mind a lazy Sunday afternoon catfish fry, complete with hound dogs looking for a little piece of table scrap heaven. Almost totally acoustic and untainted by filler of any kind, this CD is down-home acoustic folk blues at its rough-sawn best. Recorded and produced at Little Hollywood Studio by Nashville blues legend Danny Lee Ramsey, "Acoustic Alley Blues" will make you smile, and take you home. - Bill Thames

"Nashville Music Guide"

Acoustic Alley Blues is a huge step up for Little Johnny, with understated sincerity in his vocal, guitar and harmonica work. Also, I love the beautiful way he uses Micol Davis (of Blue Mother Tupelo) to sing plaintive harmonies on a couple of cuts. - Shannon "Shan de Bayou" Williford

"Kentuckiana Blues Society "BluesNews""

"...A veteran of the stages at Ground Zero in Clarksdale, King's Palace on Beale Street and the Slippery Noodle in Indy, his debut CD is a blend of acoustic and electric guitar..."M'ssippi Blues" is one that stands out, featuring great slide and harp work. The Americana front porch is a perfect reference point for this collection; I could smell pork chops frying and taste sweet tea just by listening." - Natalie Carter

"Kentuckiana Blues Society "BluesNews""

I've been a fan of Johnny's since I heard "Front Porch Blues", so "Acoustic Alley Blues" is a real treat for me. Besides the captivating guitar work, which has soothed many a working hour for me this summer, the lyrics in this set are wonderfully entertaining. After I checked to make sure we weren't really cousins ("Relatives"), I slipped into a daydream during "Flat World", courtesy of Micol Davis' beautiful vocal harmony. And "You Could Do A Lot Worse"...well, you know who you are. And I hope you do.

I love acoustic guitar and clever lyrics, and I'm tempted to quote from every song, but instead I'll just say that this is a great CD and you really ought to check it out. I've heard it's a little John Prine, I thought maybe a little Arlo Guthrie, but it's definitely all Johnny, and when Johnny's a-pickin', I'm a grinnin'! - Natalie Carter


With the very first track, out of the body of this skinny white man comes a grizzled, raspy black man’s voice. “Yonder Comes the Blues” is a slurring, staggering, authentic and whiskey-fueled ode to bad luck with deliberately sloppy chord changes and plenty of heart and soul. Little Johnny Kantreed doesn’t just sing the blues – he’s grown up with the sound, he knows the history, and he can belt them out with the best.

These songs paint dark watercolors and put me right into the frame. Old houses with decaying front porches. Walking barefoot on torn-up streets, drinking homemade red wine, seeking fame and fortune. Bad women and even worse decisions. But Kantreed knows that the purpose of the blues isn’t to wallow in misery. He delivers many of these songs with a sly, wicked grin, including my personal favorite, “Relatives.” He claims to be kin to a woman who spends her day smoking in bed and listening to the police scanner, a cousin who had a shotgun wedding to a carnie and was divorced by age fifteen, and a grandpa with a belt buckle as big as a serving tray. He sings that the scary thing for him is that all these people know where he lives. The scary thing for me is that I believe him.

A special tip of the battered pageboy cap goes to Micol Davis, who adds her lovely vocals to two of these tracks. She has a Dolly Parton quality that melts perfectly into this sound.

“I had the blues so bad one time, it put my face in a permanent frown,” Kantreed sings at one point. Maybe. But there’s too much spirited mischief in these songs to make me believe that he’s really down for the count.
- Jennifer Layton

"Music News Nashville"

Make no mistake about it, this is a Blues album. Born and raised in Music City, Kantreed has recorded an album that feels like it would be home down in the swampland of Louisiana or the Mississippi Delta.

The opener, "Cigar Box Blues," churns and turns just like any rebel-rouser in the afore-mentioned states would, and he turns in a nice cover of the classic "Goodnight Irene." He can slow it down just a little, as he does on the story song "Louis Collins" and the raspy "The Red Rose," where Kantreed shows a little bit of a sensitive side.

My personal favorite on this album is the thumping "What A Shame," which while there are no blues singles charts (I'm not counting the hip / hop dominated R&B chart), I think this song could have a huge impact. Get ready, people….Kantreed is about to make his voice known! - Music News Nashville


So you're hankerin' for some dust in your mouth? Some grit to chew on as you drive down the road in your flatbed? That hot delta air is pressing in as you finish the day's work in the fields, and you're feelin' the blues? Well Little Johnny Kantreed is gonna bring you some water so's you can wash it all down.

OK - enough of the imagery. Little Johnny Kantreed has really got a winner here. His CD "Bring Me A Little Water" is a wonderful collection of traditional blues played on dobro and cigar box guitar with some help from a few friends.

This is the kind of traditional blues you would hear during a lunch break in the fields where someone toted along their homemade stringed instrument and just started singin' about what's ailin' them. Most of the tracks are presented plain and simple - put up a microphone and press record, but a few have a little flavor added to them ("Good Woman Blues") for some vocal effects, but nothing out of the nature of the song. Little Johnny Kantreed has a voice very much like the indie bluesman Malcolm Holcombe: a gravel road going through a dry cotton field and he plays the dobro and cigar box in a very simple traditional manner that accompanies his singing just right. The cigar box guitar really brings out the blues DNA, allowing you to hear all the way back through the plantations to the plains of Africa.

"Bring Me A Little Water" is packed with a great assortment of traditional songs including a rendition of "Good Night Irene" that has everyone on the front porch singing and playing. Kantreed includes some simple solo performances of songs like "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad," the classic by Big Bill Broomzy, and his own composition "Joe's Blues." "Asked My Captain" by James Mathus of the Squirrel Nut Zippers is a nifty work song, complete with sledgehammer and anvil stomps.

This is the kind of CD where you either get it or you don't. If you know what real traditional blues should sound like, then this is a CD you should look into getting. -

"Music City Blues Society"

It has been our pleasure to know Little Johnny Kantreed since, well, since none of us had any gray hair! He's a brilliant guitarist and storyteller, always fun to be around and listen to. His vocal delivery and picking style evokes a time when the disciples of the Delta roamed the earth, spreading the gospel of the blues. On his latest CD, "Bring Me A Little Water," johnny can be counted as one of those disciples, turning in fifteen standout performances, mixing in cool originals with some well-chosen covers.
The last time we saw Johnny, he'd been playing a LoweBow, or a cigar box guitar, and this unique instrument is prominently featured on this CD, adding to its definitive "down home" sound. Check out the leadoff "Cigar Box Blues," a traditional tale of meeting up with the "blues, walking just like a man." The tone he gets from that guitar is also perfect for a cover of Alvin Hart's "Big Mama's Door."
Nine tracks of this set were produced by Danny Lee Ramsey, and the other six feature backing harmony and instrumentation from Blue Mother Tupelo, with Ricky Davis handling the production chores. Johnny shows off his dobro skills on "You Got To Move," and lets Ricky take lead guitar on the cut from which the lyrics are drawn for the album's title, "Sylvie." Johnny handles the banjo on this cut, and Micol Davis' sweet backing vocals paint a beautiful sonic palette.
Everyone will have their favorites on this diverse set, and we had three. There's neat use of the "echo effect" on "Asked My Captain," as well as the "chain gang"-like field hollers and anvil strikes. Johnny plays banjo and dobro on the sweet tale of a simpler time, back "before the information superhighway," entitled "I Remember Dirt." Fellow roots music songstress Annie Mosher's vocals make this one a sweet duet. And, "Joe's Blues," is a rowdy tale of a junkyard resident with a taste for whisky and wimmin', and is fueled by some fiery lead work from Johnny on the cigar box guitar.
Johnny has always called Middle Tennessee his home, but the blues are in his heart and soul. And, with the varied production techniques employed on this set as well as the clever choice of material, "Bring Me A Little Water" is his best and most adventurous offering to date. This one is sure to bring Little Johnny Kantreed to a wider audience than ever! - Don & Sheryl Crow


2003 - Front Porch Blues (available at and through numerous download sites)
2005 - Acoustic Alley Blues (available at, and through numerous download sites)
2008 - Bring Me A Little Water (available at and through numerous download sites)



Winner of the MCBS Bluesey Award for Best Other Blues Instrumentalist of the Year and the Nashville Blues Award for Best Specialty Instrumentalist of the year. Also nominated for Acoustic Blues Act of the Year and "Acoustic Alley Blues" for Blues CD of the Year.

Downhome acoustic folk blues. LJK was born and raised in the Nashville, TN area. In the late '70's, solo artists were a dime a dozen in Nashville. So LJK packed up his powder blue Vega and moved to the Daytona Beach area of Florida, playing happy hours and opening for beach bands. Deciding that a steady paycheck would be a good way of life, he entered the radio scene and DJ'd morning drive times in Greenville, KY and Winchester, VA. Realizing that he liked Tennessee better than the nomadic life of radio, he landed back in Nashville.

Back in his hometown, he hooked up with a couple of bands, playing drums for The Color Flag and Horse Of A Different Color. But it was the blues that was in him. Since that time, playing at The Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival (formerly the King Biscuit Blues Festival) in Helena, AR, The Ground Zero Blues Club and the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, MS, the Booze 'n' Blues Festival in Indianola, MS, along with King's Palace on Beale Street in Memphis, The Great Atlanta Blues & Music Festival, The Slippery Noodle Inn in Indianapolis and the Blues Stage at The Beanblossom Blues Festival in Beanblossom, IN, and sharing the stage with Americana artists Annie Mosher and Cheley Tackett, blues artists Blue Mother Tupelo, Patio Daddio of Delicious Blues Stew, Jimbo Mathus, Wichita's Moreland & Arbuckle, Indianapolis based The D-Moans, The Blues Attic Ramblers and "The Southpaw from Arkansas", guitarist Michael Holloway, LJK is quickly making a name for himself in the Southeast blues scene.