Richard Leo Johnson — The Legend of Vernon McAlister
(Cuneiform Rune 222, 2006, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2006-05-01
Unique among guitarists, Richard Leo Johnson has forged his own sound through years of self-taught study on his instrument, developing unconventional tunings, fingerpicking styles, and various other ways of extracting the maximum amount of beauty, expressiveness, and raw emotion from the strings and fretboard. Last time around on 2004’s Poetry of Appliance, he worked in a trio format with a violin and keyboard supporting; this time out Johnson goes it pretty much solo, exclusively using a vintage 30s steel bodied resonator guitar; I love the sound of these things, so I’m already among the converted: the tone is rich and warm, a slightly compressed sound tonally compared to your regular old acoustic steel stringed guitar, but with a lot of overtones that give it unique character. Johnson plucks, strums, fingerpicks, scratches, slides, e-bows, plays the short side of the bridge, and squeezes sounds out of the guitar that you’ve probably never heard before, blending melody and rhythm in every conceivable way on the 20 compositions herein; no other instruments are used. And what of the title? Johnson found the name of Vernon McAlister – apparently one of its previous owners, etched into the body of the guitar. The whole story, myth and legend, can be found at www.vernonmcalister.com. While Johnson’s style is definitely his own creation, fans of Leo Kottke, Carl Weingarten, John Fahey, and Michael Hedges should find plenty to enjoy in his playing, compositions, and overall approach on this disc.
Related artist(s): Richard Leo Johnson
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more