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Music Review: Johnny A. – One November Night (CD + DVD)

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I’m a sucker for guitarists and doubly so for good guitarists. Johnny A falls into the very good guitarist category.

Johnny A began playing the guitar at an early age and learned his professional chops playing in bands for Bobby Whitlock and seven years with former J. Geils Band vocalist Peter Wolf for whom he co-produced his 1996 album, Long Line. Since leaving Wolf’s employ he has issued two successful solo albums, Sometime Tuesday Evening and Get Inside.

He has now released One November Night, which can be considered a live retrospective of his solo career. The concert was performed in front of a small but enthusiastic audience in the Boston area near his home. As such it has an intimate feel and he appears relaxed. The album has been released in a two-disc CD and DVD format. The CD contains thirteen performances, the DVD ten. And there is a lot of repetition as nine tracks are duplicates.

Personally I prefer the DVD as I always like to see a guitarist’s technique. He comes across as a precise technician who is able to produce a clear sound. He also uses a song's melody as a foundation for improvisation while remaining within its structure.  

The DVD begins with “I Had To Laugh,” which quickly establishes his style and resulting tone. “Lullaby For Nicole” was written for his young daughter and is the most intricate track here, as he takes more chances and experiments quite a bit. “Ignorance is Bliss,” “Tex Critter,” and especially the country boogie of “Two Wheel Horse” demonstrate that he can also compose a good song. The DVD concludes with a haunting version of the old Left Banke classic “Walk Away Renee.” This track was filmed outside the concert hall and features Johnny A alone with his guitar, playing against the backdrop of a New England sunset.

The CD adds several interesting tracks. The man is in rock mode on Check Berry’s "Memphis" but takes the old Glen Campbell hit, “Wichita Lineman,” in a light jazz direction. And he uses Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” as a jumping off point for some more tasty improvisation.

Johnny A may not be a household name but he is certainly a guitarist of note. He's one of those rare musicians who let’s his instrument do the singing. One November Night is an excellent introduction to his style and music.

About David Bowling