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Palo Alto Online
Publication Date: Friday, March 22, 2002|
(March 22, 2002) Johnny A.'s instrumental album an unexpected gem
"Sometime Tuesday Morning"
by Marc Burkhardt
When it comes to pop music, what you see is usually what you get. Take a glance at the clean-scrubbed *NSYNC or the art-damaged Tool and you know exactly what to expect.
Guitarist Johnny A., however, is having none of that. The cover of his most recent CD, "Sometime Tuesday Morning" (1999), screams "generic white blues guy." The seedy backdrop, black clothes, greasy hair and sullen gaze bespeak a strong infatuation with such legendary Texas tornadoes as Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
So it's definitely a shock to fire up the CD and instead hear 12 instrumentals that owe more to the clean, economical styles of cool jazzbo Wes Montgomery and country picker Chet Atkins -- with a little Jeff Beck added for spice.
Johnny A., who made a name for himself backing former J. Geils Band vocalist Peter Wolf, wastes few notes in his relaxed compositions, which combine elements of country, blues, jazz and a little guitar-hero flash.
The formula -- laconic solos backed by an unassuming rhythm section (Ed Spargo and Craig McIntyre on bass and drums, respectively) -- works best on the snappy "Oh Yeah" and a gorgeous version of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" that would make Glen Campbell -- an accomplished axe man himself -- nod in appreciation.
Unfortunately, at times things get a little too relaxed. Although the CD is quite striking as a whole, several of the numbers are too similar in tempo and feel to leave lasting, individual impressions. And a decision to slow down The Ventures' classic "Walk Don't Run" saps all the power and immediacy out of a timeless instrumental.
Still, at a time when instrumental virtuosity has taken a back seat to samples, sequencers and synthesizers, it's refreshing to stumble upon an unexpected gem like Johnny A.
He may not be a fiery maverick like Dick Dale or a wide-eyed visionary like Jimi Hendrix, but in his understated way he makes a strong case for the unvarnished pleasure of tasteful, unpretentious guitar playing. Proof positive that all CDs can't be judged by their covers.
Johnny A. will perform on Monday at the ICON Supper Club, 260 California Ave. in Palo Alto. Chris Clouse will open. Doors open at 7 p.m.; show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance; $14 on the day of the show; and can be purchased at ICON and at all Ticket Master locations. For more information call (650) 289-0222 or visit www.iconsupperclub.com.