One of many reunions that took place over the years, after a teenaged Evan Johns provided vocals and rhythm guitar on Danny Gatton’s legendary Redneck Jazz album in 1978. This was recorded live at Baltimore’s 8×10 club in March of ’84, just a month before Johns disbanded D.C.’s H-Bombs and joined Austin’s LeRoi Brothers, and shows that Johns’ own guitar style was, in part, a variation on tricks he’d picked up from Gatton, a devotee of Les Paul’s filigree.
The praise typically heaped on Gatton was often the same as the criticism leveled against him: he could play anything and everything with blinding technique, and often did – sometimes in the course of one song. Sitting in with the H-Bombs didn’t raise any obstacles Danny couldn’t handle, even, as Johns points out, on songs he was unfamiliar with. But the loose structure brings out some mega-note fests – which is good or bad, depending on how you look at it. You definitely get a lot of Gatton for your buck, and, since there isn’t any “new” Gatton product set for release (he committed suicide in 1994), fans will cherish any undiscovered gems.
On the Doug Sahm-tinged “Day Go By,” he employs pedal steel-like double-stop bends, a chorus of false harmonics, and myriad other licks and tricks. Probably Johns’ prettiest original, it is unfortunately marred by some severely out-of-tune rhythm guitar from its composer, but features a nice, tremolo-picked solo by Mark Korpi. The H-Bombs’ “second guitarist,” Korpi often provided subtlety to balance Johns’ over-the-top excursions.
Elsewhere Johns and Gatton trade solos while the H-Bombs pump mightily on originals like “Rollin’ Thru the Night,” “Ugly Man,” and “Teenie Bit of Love.” The sound is crude and raw, with the vocals sometimes buried. But the guitars blast through loud and clear, as does the atmosphere of what must have been one hell of a party! Johns later recorded the CD’s closing “bonus track,” the jazzy “Viva Dan’l,” on which he plays all instruments – a nice little decompressor after all the speaker-frying.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.