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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Richard Leo Johnson and Gregg Bendian: Who Knew Charlie Shoe?

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Talk to most guitarists and you'll find self-admitted gear heads looking for the latest and greatest--or, conversely, vintage--instruments, representing unparalleled craftsmanship. Still, guitarists like ex-Ry Cooder and Jackson Browne collaborator David Lindley revel in finding old instruments that may be cheap but possess unmistakable character. Guitarist Richard Leo Johnson continues the story begun on The Legend of Vernon McAlister (Cuneiform, 2006) with Who Knew Charlie Shoe?, finding great and surprising beauty in dime-a-dozen instruments.

Folklore has it that Shoe--an apparent protégé of McAlister's--came upon Junk Fish (aka Jaden Barrel) at a junkyard, who shared an equally ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Richard Leo Johnson: The Legend of Vernon McAlister

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One look at the cover of guitarist Richard Leo Johnson's latest album, with its sepia-toned photograph of a serious-looking Johnson seated with a Duolian steel-bodied guitar, and you might expect a radical departure from Poetry of Appliance (Cuneiform, 2004). And you'd not be far from wrong. Unlike Johnson's last record, which featured his esoteric working trio and a multiplicity of guitars, The Legend of Vernon McAlister is a true solo album--one man, one guitar.

Equally, the Americana of “Morning Glory, where Johnson layers an elliptically Frisellian melody over propulsive strumming, would certainly suggest he's gone all folksy. But while he's ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Richard Leo Johnson: Poetry of Appliance

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With only three records to his name-- Fingertip Slip (Blue Note, '99), Language (Blue Note, '00), and now his new release, Poetry of Appliance --guitarist Richard Leo Johnson has managed to create a small but vital body of work that combines the best of Ralph Towner, Leo Kottke, Steve Tibbetts and Michael Hedges. Working mainly on acoustic guitar, and a double-neck one that has both six and twelve-string variants to boot, Johnson has evolved a self-taught style that, like the best of his influences, is intriguing in its orchestral scope and distinctive in its approach.

On Poetry of Appliance Johnson ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Richard Leo Johnson: Language

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Picking up where he left off with his solo debut Fingertip Ship, Richard Leo Johnson takes his solo guitar lines through a variety of sounds and styles, backed vicariously by a talented group of musicians which includes drummer Matt Wilson, Govt. Mule guitarist Warren Haynes and a brief guest spot by Johnson’s ten-year-old daughter Tess.

Instead of gathering his musical heroes and friends in his studio, Johnson sent each of his collaborators his or her own tape of his guitar track and let them improvise as they saw fit, combining the occasionally disparate parts in the mixing ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Richard Leo Johnson: Fingertip Ship

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Self-taught and self-tuned, guitarist/photographer Richard Leo Johnson takes listeners on a thirteen-part voyage on his Fingertip Ship. Though he pays tribute to Jazz legends Tony Bennett, Stephane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt and Jaco Pastorius and explores the feelings of Pink Floyd and The Who, Johnson’s technique, style and delivery are unlike any other performer. Often hitting the frets without knowing exactly what "key" he may be in (if any), Johnson’s intuitive and idiosyncratic approach ranges from the delicate and spare to the blindingly frenetic.

Raised in the heart of America, Johnson explores classic and contemporary domestic moods as ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Richard Leo Johnson: Fingertip Ship

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Self-taught and self-tuned, guitarist/photographer Richard Leo Johnson takes listeners on a thirteen-part voyage on his Fingertip Ship. Though he pays tribute to Jazz legends Tony Bennett, Stephane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt and Jaco Pastorius and explores the feelings of Pink Floyd and The Who, Johnson’s technique, style and delivery are unlike any other performer. Often hitting the frets without knowing exactly what “key" he may be in (if any), Johnson’s intuitive and idiosyncratic approach ranges from the delicate and spare to the blindingly frenetic. Raised in the heart of America, Johnson explores classic and contemporary domestic moods as well as sounds ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Richard Leo Johnson: Language

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Because of its location, Nashville did not become a center for jazz or blues, as did Memphis and St. Louis. Instead, the Tennessee hub has become a city known for quite a few things in general and its country-western music theme in particular. Arkansas-born guitarist Richard Leo Johnson, 44, has spent some time in Nashville and recognizes the melting-pot nature of its culture. Bluegrass, folk, Celtic music and continental European elements show up on Language. While Johnson’s debut album last year represented an impressionistic journey across the U.S.A., this one pays homage to America’s musical roots.

With his acoustic guitars ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Richard Leo Johnson: Language

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The revival of Blue Note Records has been little short of phenomenal when one considers that the legendary label was moribund by the early 1980's until various believers like Bruce Lundvall applied their resources and genius to the challenge of revival. One part of the jazz juggernaut that Blue Note has become lies in the visionary leadership of Lundvall, as the artists on the label attest. The other part lies in the fact that Blue Note is allowing the music to lead the marketing, instead of forcing the music to conform to the marketing. The result is that Blue Note ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Richard Leo Johnson: Fingertip Ship

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It sounds like hyperbole, but I mean it – you have heard these techniques before, but you haven’t heard them like this. If you have, I consider you privileged.

Richard Leo Johnson is a photographer from Arkansas; his pictures are part of museum collections. The guitar stayed in his living room while a technique slowly took shape; only recently has he ventured into public performance. In this set he strums, tweaks, bangs, and does things I am at a loss to describe. But how he did it is unimportant – what he did is.

We first hear twelve seconds of ...



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