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
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more