Texan guitarist Eric Johnson may not be as well known as guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Steve Vai or Carlos Santana, but he is one of the world’s top guitar players, having been voted one of the 100 greatest guitarists of the 20th century by Musician magazine and been named Guitarist of the year in 2010 by Guitar International.
He’s won more Austin music awards than anyone else (he’s won a staggering 33 of them), is in the Texas music hall of fame, and is a Grammy winner having won one for his 1990 album “Ah Via Musicom.” He’s performed or recorded with a huge number of other music legends including B.B.King, Chet Atkins, Steve Vai, Eric Clapton, Joe Satriani, Dweezil Zappa and many more.
His last UK release, in 2013, was “Up Close – Another Look” and was a European version of his 2010 “Up Close” album, with some tracks removed and the others remixed or remastered. It was a stunningly good album, but his new release is very different as he’s ditched the electric guitar to make an all acoustic album.
The new album, EJ, is a mix of original songs and cover versions, with covers including the Simon and Garfunkel hit “Scarborough Fair” and the Jimi Hendrix song “One Rainy Wish.”
It’s got a much more intimate feel to it than an electric album, with the songs all being played either solo on acoustic guitar, or on piano and acoustic guitar, with Eric Johnson playing the piano as well as the guitars (although he has a second guitarist for some songs – Doyle Dykes).
It’s hard to imagine an acoustic version of a Jimi Hendrix song, and even harder to imagine it on piano and acoustic guitar, but Eric Johnson has re-arranged it beautifully, and the result is excellent.
There are several instrumentals on the album, and it’s interesting to compare “Serinidad” which is played on a nylon stringed guitar to “Once upon a time in Texas” which is played on a steel-string guitar. The two have such a different sound, and it’s clear why each was chosen for the particular tracks. That use of different guitars really does make such a big difference to the tracks but also to the flow of the album as the different sounds help add extra diversity and interest to the album.
I’ve listened to some acoustic albums in the past where I’ve been bored to tears as it’s quite easy for the songs to all sound quite similar and fairly bland. Unsurprisingly though, Eric Johnson has avoided that problem and managed to make sure this album retains your interest all the way through. Fantastic guitar playing, beautiful vocals and lovely piano playing all combine to make an excellent acoustic album.
“EJ” will be released on 7th October 2016 via Provogue records (part of the Mascot label group)
1. Mrs Robinson
2. Water under the bridge
4. Wrapped in a cloud
5. Once upon a time in Texas
6. One rainy wish
8. Fatherly downs
9. The world is waiting for the sunshine
11. All things you are
12. Scarborough fair/Camticle
13. Song for Irene