Continuing to Innovate….Dennis Johnson finds the Rhythm!

Dennis Johnson

Guitars have been widely available in America since back in 1894 when Sears & Roebuck began to sell them in their catalogs.  For $4 to $26 dollars, you could live on a remote ranch in Wyoming or in a shotgun shack in the Mississippi delta, and Sears would mail you an instrument to while the nights…and the blues away.  Certainly the most famous practitioner of the blues on guitar back in the early days of recorded music was Robert Johnson.  Playing throughout the twenties in the deep American south and finally recording in the mid 1930’s, he was an innovator on the guitar blending rhythm and slide phrases that are still marveled at by the likes of Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy. 

Today, we also have blues innovators on the guitar and one of them is Dennis Johnson from San Francisco. The sounds he produces playing slide are a joy to listen to. And on his third studio album, Rhythmland, he continues to explore new and interesting ways to deliver the blues.  The first cut of the album, Walkin Blues, is his interpretation of a classic blues tune that was first recorded by Son House and then adapted by Robert Johnson. Dennis has the perfect voice for this song and uses a 12 string dobro with a tone that leaps out at you as it begins….it is simply bad ass upbeat contemporary blues based on a song that is almost 90 years old!!!

Accompanied by his band the Mississippi Ramblers that consists of Tim Metz (drums), Jonathan Stoyanoff (bass) and Craig Long (keyboards and backing vocals), Dennis delivers a number of other great songs (all originals) that will make my DJ playlists and be featured on my 24 hour blues stream, Ben Vee Roadhouse Blues.  I particularly enjoyed Valley of Love for the slide work and High Heel Shoes and Fillmore Street are great upbeat dancin’ blues tunes.  The recreation of the sounds of a moving train on an acoustic guitar are just part of delightful song, Southbound Train, that always features some nice keyboard work.  The most interesting cut was Timbale featuring a latin cascara beat and some more innovative slide work that I just know my blues listeners and readers will love.

Blues folks all owe a debt to Sears & Roebuck for the innovation of the “home shopping” catalog way back in the day and our grateful thanks to blues slide guitar innovators like Dennis Johnson for his continuing and entertaining pursuit of the best possible contemporary blues while never losing sight of the debt we owe to the early blues men and women.  Download and listen to this CD……you will enjoy it!

Dennis Johnson & the Mississippi Ramblers – Root Tone Records 2017

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