Dennis Johnson – Revelation
Lovers of slide guitar will find a wealth of slippery slide in this sparkling 37-minute collection. Starting with a classic cover of Memphis, Tennessee’s Don Nix tune “Going Down,” & performing the song with the same authority, gusto & tone Nix drenched it with on his 1971 double-live LP “Alabama State Troupers Road Show.”
Dennis Johnson asserts himself thoroughly. The Nix — covered countless times & considered a rock ‘n roll standard is glorious here with a nice Bob Fridzema piano run, sax blare, the pounding Jonathan Stoyanoff bass, the tight clean Anton Fig drums & oh, yeah Dennis Johnson on guitar too. This gives lovers of Memphis soul the chills again. This will delight the skin with goosebumps because these players indeed penetrate the pores.
This well-recorded 10-cut Revelation (Drops July 15–Booda Lee Records) includes “Talk To You” which offers shades of the wilder Robben Ford (“Can’t Let Her Go”) & there isn’t a single misfire from Dennis Johnson’s engine. His guitar sings – there’s direction as the notes talk to each other & you can hear the differing tonalities as if multiple voices are speaking. Then the B3 comes in with its big cigar & belly to dictate over the assembled. But no, the Anton Fig drums interrupt with seltzer & ice down everyone’s pants. Excellent energetic stuff. The way it used to be.
Johnson explores the musical acumen of blues, rockers, roots music, gospel & country — he keeps it all well-balanced & knows he can serve up his favorite musical meals confidently. The songs, even the slower ones, all emanate from a groove with well-thought-out unique guitar tones. There are many great technical guitarists but what it comes down to is what “personality” cruises down the strings & frets on the neck of that body. Character emerges.
“Salvation Bound,” cooks with sterling musicianship. A few songs are obligatory (“32-20 Blues,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” & the excellent “Ramblin’”). Overall, an entertaining collection performed in the tradition that nothing really gets stale if you take care of it. Some songs are quite aged, but you could never tell here. Not with Johnson’s buffed Simonized Buick of a repertoire. What’s impressive is how the small band can maintain such a solid musical structure with soul & excitement. It never sounds like a rehash – it’s thinly sliced & piled on.
The individual contribution of each musician is what makes the performance intensity attractive. It’s a collective endeavor that succeeds at every level of their expression. Everything makes a sound but with expert hands it becomes musical & the best is when it’s weaved through the interplay of other fingers – unified & the receiver being a pair of ears. These speculators are invested in vintage melodies & we are the richer for it. Color image by Tony Dellacioppa (2018).
CD available @ https://www.dennisjohnsonslide.com/