Texas guitar virtuoso Eric Johnson has kept somewhat of a low profile the last few years, but that's all about to change with the release of his latest album, Up Close. Mostly instrumental save for a few vocal tracks, Up Close is another jaw dropping collection of rock/jazz-fusion guitar burners and more accessible pop-rock fare.
The opening 1-2 punch of "Awaken" and "Fatdaddy" is a great way to start things here, as Johnson throws in plenty of his signature licks alongside some wild 'Jeff Beck Blow By Blow/Wired era' styled fusion & funk explorations. Malford Milligan lends vocal support to the catchy rock track "Brilliant Room", while "Texas" is a sizzling slow blues number featuring Steve Miller on vocals and Jimmie Vaughan on guitar. The gorgeous "Gem" shows the formidable songwriting chops of Johnson, as his guitar takes over the melody line and just soars, and "Austin" is a hook laden blues rocker with a strong vocal performance from Jonny Lang to go alongside some stinging guitar from Eric. From there it's a virtual non-stop barrage of tasty instrumental & vocal pieces, all featuring plenty of Johnson's stunning guitar work, from the country twang of "On the Way", the psychedelic strains of "The Sea and the Mountain", the hard rockin' blues of "Vortexan", the Jimi Hendrix inspired "A Change Has Come to Me", and the emotional ballad "Your Book", complete with guitar duets with Sonny Landreth. Nice to see Eric handling a few vocal pieces here, as he really does have a fine voice, and with the few guests he's brought in, it balances things out very well with the instrumental tracks.
Eric Johnson is a player that never seems to disappoint, and Up Close is another winner from him. If you like tasty, melodic, well written guitar based material, make sure you seek this one out.
3. BRILLIANT ROOM (Malford Milligan -vocal)
4. TEXAS (Steve Miller -vocal, Jimmie Vaughan - guitar)
7. AUSTIN (Jonny Lang - vocal)
8. SOUL SURPRISE
9. ON THE WAY
11. THE SEA AND THE MOUNTAIN
13. A CHANGE HAS COME TO ME
14. CHANGE - revisited
15. YOUR BOOK (Sonny Landreth - guitar)