Unless you've started attending church in hopes of better understanding the overlords of our nation (which my Canadian colleagues now call "Jesusland"), waking before noon on Sunday isn't too appealing. But if you're a diehard soul music lover, you probably make the effort, setting your alarm (and the coffee maker) to go off at 9:00 a.m. on the Sabbath, just in time to catch KEXP's Preachin' the Blues program, hosted by Johnny Horn.

Since the late '80s, when he moved here from Nashville, TN, Horn has been one of the busiest (and least attention-hungry) proponents on the Seattle scene, as a DJ, session musician, producer, you-name-it. His resumé includes stints with the Defenders, the Notables, and Sub Pop's underrated indie-rock-cum-hiphop ensemble, Evil Tambourines. His best-known project, Hi-Fi Killers, released several fine platters in the late '90s that fused reggae and hiphop with blaxploitation-era soul, funk, and, yes, even disco.

The common thread running through his discography is "a deep connection to rhythm and blues tradition," according to Horn. "Reggae is at least half R&B, the hiphop samples are of obvious origin, and even the Evil Tambourines was very funky."

Horn's latest outing is These Old Nites (on Purefire Records), under the moniker Junior Jackson, peddling what he calls Swamp-Soul: "That late-night kind of music that has Southern roots, a strong beat with a deep swing, and elements of rock 'n' roll, soul, the blues, and country." The 12-track set kicks off with "Charmed," a mesmerizing mix of muted beats and gravelly vocals, incanting a love spell concocted with common household objects: Green onions, garlic, old valentines, playing cards. With its New Orleans shuffle and stinging blues licks, "Rode Hard" recalls the subtle menace of Dr. John or a young Tom Waits.

The lyrics are pointed ("Poor Man" pokes pins in our "cracker president/country and corny"), full of vibrant images and characters; "The Guitar Man" stars a fellow with a "lower voice than Lou Rawls" and, um, endowment "like an elephant trunk," while "Trapping" is sure to rankle PETA supporters. The aim, Horn says, was to meld "engaging storytelling, disappointed love blues, and rural themes," and pepper the results with "rodents, bugs, broken hearts, destructive drinking, and old memories."

In concert, Junior Jackson perform as a quartet, with Horn on guitar and lead vocals, John "Foot" Rodde on drums, Jim Tillman (Love Battery) on bass, and additional guitars by either Matt Nims (Lushy) or--dig this--Lynval Golding of the Specials/Fun Boy Three fame. You can check them out this Wednesday at the Tractor, opening for Florida colleagues MOFRO. Scribble it on your calendar, though, because Horn won't be plugging it on Preachin'.

"Politically, it's a little funny being an on-air DJ who releases music," he admits. "I am not able to directly mention my paying gigs on the show, and I'm encouraged not to overplay my own music." No worries, Johnny--once the people discover These Old Nites, they'll undoubtedly do it for you.

kurt@thestranger.com

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