Eric Johanson – The Deep And The Dirty
This set is blues music that’s a few steps ahead of the old curve. A gnarling, fuzztone-drenched blaring opening tune attacks like hornets. It’s not Canned Heat or the Butterfield Blues Band but this Eric has a marvelous blues voice.
This opener reminds me of the excursions made by the late Alvin Lee who often added a little electronic splash to his dynamic rock vocals (“Standing At the Station”). Here, Johanson weaves so many nice guitar tones throughout his fretwork that the guitar playing alone makes each tune interesting.
Though his voice is perfectly suited to these indelible atmospherics the title track finds Eric with his God-given voice. No knob tweaking. This one’s a little swampier & laid down in a genre as old as the Delta. This is the Louisiana native’s 12-track expressive & raw collection. He admits he’s not wholly blues influenced & doesn’t see the lines between genres on The Deep And The Dirty (Drops July 28–Ruf Records). Eric negotiates his own fully fueled showcase with mood-inspiring tunes.
Produced by Jesse Dayton the pristine-sounding CD doesn’t feature blues playing by the book but explores some keenly dramatic blues performances (“Beyond the Sky,” “Stepping Stone”) without getting caught up in the barbed wire cliches of blues. “Undertow,” a cut that explodes with solid drums is fairly typical stuff. But the energy exuded is superb. A line like “How far do you wanna go…” really drives the seductive sound. The guitar runs are fairly common but the cleanliness of Eric’s playing which meanders here & there into Alvin Lee & vintage Ted Nugent’s (“Marriage On the Rocks” suite) territory is electrifying.
It doesn’t have the torque of the late Roy Buchanan or the sparks of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn, but sometimes that’s not what’s required. Eric cooks roadhouse hot on a low flame & still gets the pot to boil. The success of this is that Eric (lead guitars/vocals) varies his sound & approach enough to keep the set consistently interesting. There’s a snarl to his guitar — sets it apart from the average saloon bar blues band hero. Eric avoids the basic menu of blues. He adds the necessary spices & never stagnates. The majority of the song titles are a little elementary but that comes with the territory. Many newer musicians play like virtuosos but when it comes to lyrics or song titles they’re raccoons caught in headlights.
“Elysian Fields,” is sung again in a vivid Alvin Lee rock voice. Evocative & fascinating. Sometimes summoning ghosts is good. The blues contained herein have character & uh, lots of ghosts. Good ghosts.
Highlights – “Don’t Hold Back,” “The Deep & the Dirty,” “Beyond the Sky,” “Undertow,” “Elysian Fields,” “Familiar Sound,”
Musicians – Terrence Higgins (drums), Jesse Dayton & Patrick Herzfeld (shaker & tambourine) & Eric Vogel (bass).
CD cover image & color photo by Kaylie McCarthy. The 48-minute CD @ Bandcamp + https://www.ericjohanson.com/