The notoriously slow-to-record Johnson follows up his 2005 set, Bloom, with a solid album that should please his guitar-loving fanbase. Where Bloom was an oddly diverse collection of FM rock and vintage soul, Up Close puts EJ’s guitar front and center, each track bathed in the warm, silky tones that are today his hallmarks.
The first three tracks – “Awaken,” “Fat Daddy,” and “Brilliant Room” – capture the thick, elegant guitar lines that have been part of the Eric Johnson style for nearly 25 years. In a slight break, “Texas” is a blues-guitar summit with Jimmie Vaughan, E.J.’s venerable rhythm section of drummer Tommy Taylor and bassist Roscoe Beck, and Mr. Steve Miller on vocals. “Gem” is just what you’d expect, an instrumental featuring Johnson’s famous shimmering rhythm parts and elegant lead lines. Eric also brings in other key guests, such as Jonny Lang to lend his soulful pipes on “Austen” and the legendary Sonny Landreth lending some bottleneck to the spiritual-vibed “Your Book.”
While Up Close doesn’t break new ground, it’s an excellent return-to-form for the Texas guitar hero and, again, the analog-sounding (but digital) recording is spectacular. If you’re an E.J. fan, grab this without reservation.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s April ’11 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.
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