Since Eric Johnson's Up Close tour is still going strong in 2012, I decided to revisit my review of the December 2010 release, which I'll be listening to again this week.
The seventh studio album from Grammy Award-winning Texas guitar
hero Eric Johnson is quite the trip. Like his other CDs a mix of instrumentals
and vocal songs mostly penned by him and showcasing his unique virtuosity on
the electric guitar, Up Close includes some of the best work that
Johnson has ever written and recorded.
The album is dripping with crackling guitars. If a guitar died
and went to heaven, this is what heaven would sound like. Johnson is on fire,
effortlessly weaving incredible, sparkling solos in and out of both the
instrumental and vocal tracks. The vocal songs range from energetic blues and
rock numbers to gorgeous, heartfelt ballads. Inspired like never before,
Johnson plays and sings with a fervor not present in his previous work. Perhaps
Johnson is like a fine vintage wine, improving with age.
I was first introduced to the music of Johnson 22 years ago by
an employee at a local cable television station I was interning at during my
senior year of high school. That was the year Johnson, then 36 years old,
released his breakthrough second album, Ah Via Musicom, which achieved
the distinction of having three instrumental songs reach the American Top Ten.
As accomplished and groundbreaking as Ah Via Musicom and its edgier and sonically
more expansive 1996 follow-up, Venus Isle, are, Johnson has really
poured his living, breathing essence into Up Close. The result is the
best guitar-based album of the last several years, and one of the best
guitar-based and general music albums of all time.
With Up Close, Johnson is at the top of his game as a
guitarist, composer, and singer. He has created a masterwork of soulful
jazz/pop/rock fusion that exudes passion, especially through his trademark
virtuosic guitar sound. Even with guest vocals by Malford Milligan, Steve
Miller, and Johnny Lang, and guitar performances by Jimmie Vaughan, Steve
Hennig, and Sonny Landreth, the album is clearly all Eric Johnson up close
front and center.