CD Review – Eric Johnson – Up Close – Vortexan Music – 8 out of 10
Eric Johnson, the guitarist’s guitarist returns to the fray with his first album of new material in five years, with Up Close.
Known for his melodic, dextrous guitar style, and perfectionist ways, Johnson was a contemporary with Stevie Ray Vaughan on the Texas Music scene in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but he did not come to world wide attention until the launch of his early albums, Tones, and Ah Via Musicom, which featured his signature piece, Cliffs of Dover.
On Up Close, the fifteen tracks feature a number of genres, from ambient pieces such as’Awaken’ with its Indian sitar flavourings, to the bluesy rock of the instrumentals ‘FatDaddy’ and ‘Vortexan’ to the slow mood pieces such as ‘Soul Surprise’ and ‘Gem’ through to the country piece ‘On the Way’.
As well as his usual backing musicians, a number of special guests feature on the album, from the cover of Mike Bloomfield’s ‘Texas’ with vocals from Steve Miller, and a telling guitar contribution from Jimmy Vaughan, showing that less is more, to ‘Austin’ which features a vocal performance from Johnny Lang, to the album closer, ‘Your Book’ which features guitar from Sonny Landreth.However, much of the music is a pleasant listen, rather than something to be involved with. There are few stand-out pieces, like ‘Cliffs of Dover’ which had impressive playing married to a good dynamic and a catchy main theme. Having said that though, the quality of the guitar work, and the strength of the music and the guest contributors all add to a worthwhile release, and show Johnson’s unerring way with a guitar and a good tune. Just don’t leave it so long next time.