Richard Leo Johnson — The Legend of Vernon McAlister
(Cuneiform Rune 222, 2006, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2006-05-01Unique 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
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Cabezas de Cera and Jack o' the Clock, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more
Acoustic Festival of Britain 2017 Announces Eclectic Lineup – The Acoustic Festival of Britain has been going since 2006, and this year's event sees a number of outstanding artists on the bill. Fairport Convention, Tir na nOg, and Martin Turner are some of the artists we've covered, and there are many more, including The Men They Couldn't Hang, Howard Jones, Chantel McGregor, and many more. The festival runs June 2-4, 2017 at Uttoxeter Racecourse in Staffordshire. » Read more