CD Review – Eric Johnson – Up Close

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 worldwide 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.


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CD Review – Mel Brown – Love, Lost and Found

CD Review – Mel Brown – Love, Lost and Found

7 out of 10 – Electro-Fi Records

The late Mel Brown was very much an unknown figure outside of the blues, but that was the world’s loss. Players from the blues firmament knew his importance though, from Buddy Guy to many of the music magazines that wrote of his talent, as a guitarist, pianist, and vocalist, and this anthology of work from the last ten years is both a fine introduction, and sadly, a fitting tribute to the man’s talent. From the instrumental title track, which opens the album, which features Mel Brown on guitars and keyboards, it is a classy package. A number of guest artists add to the mix, from Enrico Crivellaro’s guitar on the co-written ‘Red Wine and Moonshine’ to ‘My Baby wants to Boogie’ and ‘Feel like Jumping’ which both feature Snooky Pryor on vocals and harmonica, to Sam Myers who makes a telling contribution to ‘Little Girl from Maine’ to Miss Angel who’s soulful vocals add a lot to ‘Blues in the Alley’. This is blues, but it is closer to Jazz in some places, with Mel Brown’s guitar playing not just playing the normal first, fourth and fifth changes, but finding new notes and chords to bring something distinctive to the sound. Blues from the standard songbook is also included, from the piano and vocal version of Freddie King’s ‘You were wrong pretty baby’ or the similar treatment of Ray Charles’s ‘Come Back Baby’ to the version of ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ which finishes the album. This is a fine showcase for a much missed blue musician, but it is a fitting way in which he can be remembered.



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Poem Number 3

She could swing for him,

all smug grin,

lopsided scowl,

all passions burnt.

They could have been anything,

gone anywhere,

but now she carries the bucket,

he carries enough disdain for the both of them

All gone to seed,

their best years gone,

the future, precarious,

set to work on the farm,

their cows, their livestock,

growing fat for someone else’s plate.

they say wouldn’t change a moment,

but they know that they would,

for one more shot at the big time,

sometime with someone younger,

smooth skin instead of callouses,

soft dreams in place of hard reality,

a full set of teeth, hair and no flat cap.

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Poem Number 2

Black Suit.

Green Boots.

Dressed in his Sunday best.

Grey Bucket.

White Suit.

Hands caked in mud and dirt.

Black and white polka dot dress.

Green grass.

Blue sky.

Angry bull.

No red.

Hands Chaffed raw.

The sights that the farmer saw.

Hard land, hard graft.

Where the hope, and the love,

and the home endure.


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Poem 1


Black, unworn tyres.

Ground scorched by time and fire.

Arms crossed.

Hair bleached.

Tied in knots.

No roses.

No daffodils.

No, forget me nots.

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40 Years – Flash Fiction

Every week we walk this road, me and my Ron. 38 years man and wife, and the year’s never dragged on. We have the bus drop us off in town, it is so much cheaper with my bus pass, it makes up for the pictures being so expensive. I have a Maeve Binchy on the go, and Ron has his Sudoku. We had Scampi and Chips, and a table by the fire. Ron proposed a toast to Christmas, only a week until our Sarah’s home, with her new man. She says he is very nice, but we have heard it all before. I like happy endings, not tears before bedtime, but we will have tinsel and family, and take the dogs to the park on Boxing Day, as we start to put the remnants of the old year away.

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CD Review – The Innocent Ones by Willie Nile

CD Review – The Innocent Ones by Willie Nile – 8 out of 10

The Singer-songwriter Willie Nile is something of a musical magpie, but always managing to fashion something new out of older material. His voice is part Elvis Costello, part Bob Dylan, part Tom Waits, part Tom Petty, but always his own. His music is part Punk, part New Wave, part retro, part rock, part blues, part jazz, but an attractive hybrid nevertheless, but what he sings about is not your usual boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy learns something type narrative, there is something more at work here. With a stripped down band personal of multi-instrumentalists Willie Nile, Steuart Smith, doing most of the musical heavy-lifting, and Frankie Lee as co-songwriter, backing vocalist, and provider of the groups powerful drum sounds, the album has a multi-layered full sound, using more than the two guitar, drums and bass format, with piano, organ, harmonicas, sitar guitars,banjo, and pump organ adding to the mix. The album goes from the protest song ‘One Guitar’ which recasts the rhythm parts of Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ to good effect, to the ballads ‘The Innocent Ones’ and ‘Sideways Beautiful’, to the punky ‘Cant stay home’ and ‘Hear you Breathe’. This is a fine album, full of something new using something old, perfect for older punks and new wavers who are not ready for the pipes and slippers.



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