(Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group)
Texas guitar slinger Eric Johnson can pump out blues-rock riffs and solo’s soaked with delay with the best of them BUT on this release the ambience is pastoral and reflective to show another side to his skills.
The record is a mixture of well-known tunes and new compositions and Johnson plays acoustic guitar and piano. In conversations I have had with Eric – always a pleasure, btw – we have spoken about the moment the painter puts the brush down and leaves the canvas as it is, complete. The tracks here are clearly recorded with no production gimmicks.
Mrs Robinson is of course the old Paul Simon tune, familiar from the Graduate soundtrack and Johnson attacks it like he just wants to get the melodies spinning, his acoustic guitar a 1980 Martin D-45 ; Water Under The Bridge is a piano-led and elegiac piece with a slightly husky vocal that overall reminds me of Donovan. Quite haunting tune.
Wonder visits CrosbyLand in its playing more than the lyrics admittedly, very delicate yet assured guitar. A very beautiful musical outing; Wrapped In A Cloud is altogether more James Taylor with skittering piano, light orchestration floating the song along. Once Upon A Time In Texas has a neat rolling chordal basis, almost Bert Jansch and once again Eric sounds confident but also as though his savouring each tumble into the next change. One Rainy Wish is the Hendrix song with a dramatic fusion-tinged delivery and plaintive vocal. Jimi is a big deal to Johnson and huis influence is never far away. Quite enthralling.
Serinidad sounds like a Caribbean title and Eric plays a nylon-strung here. It’s a dreamy sequence that puts me in mind of Earl Klugh, who’s take on I Heard It On The Grapevine is equally beguiling. Not for the first time it occurs that these pieces would work well in cinematic settings..
Fatherly Downs takes us back to the slightly eerie folky cadences and a ghostly vocal. My favourite cut on this collection ; The World Is Waiting For the Sunshine has a real Les Paul ambience as it barrels along, very impressive playing indeed.
November takes us back to solemnity, it’s like a walk by the river at dusk with a traditionally-pitched vocal, Eric’s best here. All Things You Are is a sprightly and steadily played love song with a hint of Appalachian fresh-air about it. Lovely song to boot; Scarborough Fair brings to mind that early flowery Simon & Garfunkel album cover and this version has twinkling piano, Not staggering but it fits into this running order. Closing cut Song For Irene returns us to the steel string acoustic sound Eric favours for most of these tunes and maintains the standard of playing.
Mostly cut live, these selections form a fine picture of this artist’s dexterity and range and will appeal to many beyond his standard fanbase. To this listener a fresh roam through gorgeous melodies, somewhere between the mighty Pentangle and Leo Kottke. If Johnson reads that, he’ll smile….
(Many thanks to all of the team at the Mascot Label Group UK Office for help with this review)
Eric Johnson’s new studio album ‘EJ’ is out now on Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group.
For more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2iZ0310