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Eric Johnson

Very few musical artists achieve a true signature style -- one that makes comparisons to other musicians impossible. ButTexas guitarist Eric Johnson arguably comes as close to this echelon as any musician from the past quarter-century. Likefellow Lone Star State guitarists Johnny Winter, Billy Gibbons, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnson blends the rock style of JimiHendrix and the blues power of Albert King. Yet Johnson's wide array of additional influences (from the Beatles and Jeff Beckto jazz and Chet Atkins) makes for a guitar sound as unique as his fingerprints."When I first heard Eric," ...read more

Very few musical artists achieve a true signature style -- one that makes comparisons to other musicians impossible. ButTexas guitarist Eric Johnson arguably comes as close to this echelon as any musician from the past quarter-century. Likefellow Lone Star State guitarists Johnny Winter, Billy Gibbons, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnson blends the rock style of JimiHendrix and the blues power of Albert King. Yet Johnson's wide array of additional influences (from the Beatles and Jeff Beckto jazz and Chet Atkins) makes for a guitar sound as unique as his fingerprints."When I first heard Eric," Winter recalls, "he was only 16, and I remember wishing that I could have played like that at thatage." Former Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter says, "If Jimi Hendrix had gone on to study with Howard Roberts forabout eight years, you'd have what this kid strikes me as." The Austin prodigy appeared on the cover of Guitar Playermagazine while working with Texas jazz/fusion band the Electromagnets and as a session player (Cat Stevens, Carole King,Christopher Cross), and a 1984 performance on the TV show Austin City Limits set his recording career in motion.

Johnson's 1986 debut album, Tones, certainly proved that the hype was warranted. Playing with the ace rhythm section ofbassist Roscoe Beck and drummer Tommy Taylor, Johnson mixed blazing instrumentals ("Zap," "Victory") with Beatles-influenced vocal tunes like "Emerald Eyes" and "Bristol Shore." Johnson used the same half-and-half format on the 1990follow-up, Ah Via Musicom, but a trio of the album's tunes surprisingly made him the first artist to have three instrumentalsfrom the same album to chart in the Top Ten in any format (with "Cliffs of Dover" earning Johnson a Grammy for Best RockInstrumental).

But, if Johnson had a perceived weakness, it was the perfectionism that caused four years to pass between recordings. Evenin concert, he would painstakingly tune his guitar between songs, by ear, for minutes on end. With the success of Ah ViaMusicom, the guitarist admitted to feeling pressure to raise the bar again. But Johnson's studio nitpicking delayed Venus Isleuntil 1996, and the disappointing CD contained fewer instrumentals and sounded forced.

A stint on the 1997 G3 tour with fellow headlining guitarists Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and its resulting live release, breathednew life into Johnson and sparked the idea of a live album. Overhauling his band for the 2000 CD Live and Beyond, Johnsonbrought in bassist Chris Maresh and drummer Bill Maddox, and concentrated on more of a blues feel. The guitarist still blendedinstrumentals with his vocal tunes ("Shape I'm In," "Last House on the Block"), but perhaps realized that his thin voice wastoo one-dimensional for guttural blues or R&B. Guest vocalist Malford Milligan ignites "Don't Cha Know" and "Once a Part ofMe," helping Johnson's blazing debut on Vai's Favored Nations label and reestablishing the versatile virtuoso's status for the21st century. As Vai himself testifies, "Eric has more colorful tone in his fingers than Van Gogh had on his palette..

Souvenir, an album available only through Johnson's website, appeared in 2002, followed by CD and DVD versions of NewWest's Live from Austin, TX and Bloom, the second album for Vai's Favored Nations imprint, in 2005. Johnson returned in 2010with Up Close, a studio album that slightly emphasized the guitarist's Texas roots. « hide

Similar Bands: Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa, Gary Moore

LPs
Up Close
2010

1.8
2 Votes
Bloom
2005

3.8
18 Votes
Souvenir
2002

3
2 Votes
Venus Isle
1996

3.8
44 Votes
Ah Via Musicom
1990

3.8
93 Votes
Tones
1986

3.4
15 Votes
Seven Worlds
1978

3.5
11 Votes
Live Albums
Live and Beyond (Alien Love Child)
2000

3.1
4 Votes

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