Texas guitar legend Eric Johnson releases his first all-acoustic solo album this Friday 7th October. Long hailed as one of the world's preeminent electric guitarists, Johnson celebrates his acoustic side with 'EJ', his 12th album. Emphasising Johnson's formidable skills as a singer-songwriter, his first completely unplugged album is also his most immediate and intimate. Johnson self-produced the album and performed nine of its thirteen tracks unaccompanied in his Austin, Texas Saucer Sound studio.
An unexpected but excellent opening steel-string instrumental arrangement of Simon and Garfunkel's classic 'Mrs. Robinson' is trumped by Johnson's piano and vocals on his next track, the beautiful 'Water Under The Bridge'. Of course, better known for his guitar playing, Johnson gets out his prized 1980 Martin D-45 acoustic guitar - a gift from his late father - on 'Wonder' - another great vocal by Johnson - doing his dad proud. It's back to piano for Johnson on 'Wrapped in a Cloud', a neatly constructed vocal ensemble track with cellist John Hagen, longtime Johnson accompanists Tommy Taylor and Wayne Salzmann on drums and Roscoe Beck and Chris Maresh on acoustic bass. And he's back playing the steel-string on the explosive instrumental 'Once Upon a Time in Texas' - very reminiscent of Townshend's acoustic guitar in the masterpiece that is 'Tommy'. The second cover on 'EJ' is Johnson's vocal rearrangement of Hendrix's 'One Rainy Wish' for guitar and piano, capping the performance with a jazz-inflected piano solo plus haunting backing vocals.
Johnson also conjures the pensive flamenco tones of the 'Serinidad', a short original instrumental, on a Ramirez nylon-string guitar with the crystal guitar and vocal clarity continuing on 'Fatherly Downs' with Johnson reverting back to his 1980 Martin D-45. However, the pace quickens with Johnson and guest guitarist Doyle Dykes’ excellent instrumental cover of Les Paul and Mary Ford’s 1951 classic, 'The World Is Waiting for the Sunshine' - although things are taken down a notch as Johnson excels again on both vocals and piano on 'November', beautifully complemented by Molly Emerman's violin. Johnson picks up his 1980 Martin D-45 once more for 'All Things You Are' - with delicious vocal delivery before tackling another Simon & Garfunkel classic - and a particular favourite of mine - 'Scarborough Fair' - his own take on piano and vocals doing this classic the respect it deserves. 'EJ' closes out on the steel-string - another superlative instrumental - 'Song for Irene'. Given 'EJ's mix of both originals/covers and vocal/instrumentals - the balance of this album is truly inspirational given it's virgin territory for Johnson but adds another outstanding dimension to this Grammy winning guitarist's back catalogue.