Ro­nan McCul­lagh con­tin­ues his blues col­umn with a look at Texan rock ti­tan, Eric John­son’s sub­lime blue­sier play­ing.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Eric John­son (born Au­gust 17, 1954) is yet an­other vir­tu­oso guitarist to have come out of Texas. Born into a mu­si­cal fam­ily Eric started his jour­ney on the pi­ano af­ter his fa­ther sent him and his sis­ters to lessons. At age 11 he picked up a gui­tar and be­gan trans­fer­ring his pi­ano knowl­edge to his new love, which ex­plains those rich chord voic­ings for which he’s fa­mously known.

From his be­gin­nings with The Elec­tro­mag­nets, through to his solo al­bums and ses­sion work with artists such as Cat Stevens, Christo­pher Cross and Ca­role King, Eric has con­stantly de­liv­ered au­then­tic­ity within the bound­aries of rock and blues, yet he’s never lack­ing in ex­plo­ration; edg­ing those bound­aries fur­ther for­ward with every record. It should be no news to reg­u­lar read­ers that Eric has the most metic­u­lous at­ten­tion to de­tail and tone. He pro­fesses to be able to hear the sweet spot of a bat­tery’s life in a Tube Screamer, show­ing that he com­pletely gets the im­por­tance of tone and its role. There’s def­i­nitely an ar­gu­ment for the no­tion that the ac­tual de­liv­ery of mu­sic should take high pri­or­ity, and therein lies the rea­son for this ob­ses­sive at­ti­tude to­wards tone - re­mem­ber this beau­ti­ful logic when ad­mon­ish­ing your­self for tweak­ing your amp and ped­als into the small hours when every other sane per­son is sleep­ing!

John­son is never shy to show his in­flu­ences. Rang­ing from Ste­vie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hen­drix and Mike Bloom­field through to Wes Mont­gomery and Chet Atkins, Eric man­ages to have his own stamp on each one of th­ese di­alects as he lets this vo­cab­u­lary stew in his ex­pan­sive imag­i­na­tion. He fre­quently men­tions that he likes to prac­tise free­dom within his play­ing above any­thing else.

His solo­ing style leans heav­ily on Pen­ta­tonic and clas­sic rock and blues but with a mixed bag of ex­tras that can be dropped in at will, such as wide in­ter­val­lic ideas, chords with beau­ti­ful voic­ing lead­ing, or odd rhyth­mic group­ings. You might no­tice that he will fre­quently as­cend with one of th­ese wide in­ter­val­lic ideas and de­scend with a Pen­ta­tonic scale ar­ranged in odd group­ings in a can­non­ing fash­ion.

Although John­son’s solo­ing is ex­em­plary - some would say flaw­less - his rhythm style is also full of beauty, aided no doubt by view­ing chord con­struc­tion from a pi­anis­tic point of view; his beau­ti­ful ‘voice lead­ing’ gives his chord changes their own melody, as well as mu­si­cal bal­ance and di­rec­tion. His over­all touch is dy­namic and pur­pose­ful, seam­lessly switch­ing be­tween pick, hy­brid or a fin­ger­style ap­proach in which he uses the full range of what the gui­tar has to of­fer.

Let’s get stuck in and try it out…

NEXT MONTH Ro­nan ex­plores the blues side of Traf­fic’s hugely tal­ented Steve Win­wood


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