His myriad and distinctive musical gifts are vividly evident on Johnson’s aptly titled new album, Up Close, released on his own Vortexan Music label via EMI Distribution. The new 15-track disc finds the noted master craftsman cutting loose, roaming through variations on the rock, blues, pop, country and jazz all found at the core of his sound, pushing the dynamic range of his artistry, and mixing it up with such friends and peers as guitarists Jimmie Vaughan and Sonny Landreth and guest singers Steve Miller, Jonny Lang and Malford Milligan.
“I decided to let go a bit and allow things to happen and just go with the flow,” explains Johnson of his approach to the album. “I think that’s a direction that works better for any artist, and especially for me. I like my work to have a high proficiency, but I also wanted to go for the energy and magic of the performances.”
That vitality and vivid musicality brims from such hook-filled numbers as the hard-rocking instrumentals “Fat Daddy” and “Vortexan” and the driving vocal song “Brilliant Room” (sung by Milligan). “Gem” is splashed with bright and painterly six-string colors, “Soul Surprise” finds Johnson weaving a picturesque tapestry of both his guitar and piano gifts, and “Arithmetic” summons up a swirling and spectral kaleidoscope of guitars, keyboards and Johnson’s singing.
Photo © Max Crace
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