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There is an occasional sense of clutter, amplified by Johnson's spectacular technique, a blitzkrieg of bluegrass string hammers, soaring, bell-like harmonics, funky chordal slides, pretty fingerpicking, and scalding, fret-devouring melodic runs. The opening "Hip Hop Zep" is a blast of everything that makes Johnson so unique, from riveting full-guitar body slaps to lush picking. "Event Horizon" recalls Pat Metheny's high-plains soaring (with lots of surreal hammering effects), while "New West Helena Blues" is a dead ringer for a supercharged Leo Kottke. Two of the best tracks, "Sketches of Miles" and "Freestone Peach," are with Warren Haynes. Unlike the New Agey tracks with Paul McCandless, Haynes's authentic blues slides and ringing sustained single notes make Johnson sound more grounded and give his songs greater substance. But with humorous jigs ("Chuck Soup"), Indian-tinged standards ("Cheek to Cheek"), and father-daughter duets ("Daddydaughterduo"), Johnson is obviously not at a loss for material. Language is a full-course meal. --Ken Micallef
Language further cements his role as the current voice on 12-string guitar, continuing a lineage that includes Ralph Towner and Leo Kottke. Comparisons to those past masters are warranted - especially considering the appearance here of Oregon vets Paul McCandless and Glen Moore. While songs like "Sweet Jane Thyme," which feature McCandless's all-too-recognizable oboe, hew precariously close to Towner territory, Johnson's singular voice - the combination of fervent string hammer-ons, open-string harmonics, and arpeggiated, cascading chords - rescues these songs from imitating Oregon completely. But indeed, Language flows with a similarly searching spirit, while incorporating dynamic shifts that recall Pat Metheny's As Falls Wichita album. Even John McLaughlin and Shakti are evoked in Johnson's welcome tendency to capture sub-Asian grooves with his rhythmic sensibility.
If pairing R.L.J.'s occasionally overt melodicism and open chords in tandem with percussionist Cyro Baptista - who provides some New Agey wind chimes and neo-tropical effects - yields something akin to smooth, the guitarist opens creative floodgates with introspective solo guitarfests ("West Helena Blues") that capture the probing spirit of his debut. Ultimately, it's Johnson's unique, orchestral approach to guitar that make him and his music special.
--- Mike Bieber, JAZZIZ Magazine Copyright © 2000, Milor Entertainment, Inc. -- From Jazziz
Top Customer Reviews
Richard is one of the most incredibly, purely creative people on the planet today, and anything he does is going to be earthshakingly good. My opinion? You ain't seen nothin' yet.
Richard Leo Johnson's first release on solo acoustic guitar, "Fingertip ships" (which I bought after hearing this CD) is merely "great". You know the kind: a couple of very enjoyable tracks, the rest forgettable, and after a while you stop listening to it. This release moves the instrumental work up several notches, toward the indescribable. Notably, drums, percussion, bass, sax, cello and accordion musicians accompany the pieces. This is the sort of CD you become addicted to listening in its entirety, over and over again. Like Michael Hedges' multi-instrumentation in his later works, the addional instrumets on this CD lend great depth to the guitar work, which continues to take center stage.
Unlike the more recent Hedges works, Richard is not toning down the guitar to make room for vocals; this CD contains high energy guitar. Also, unlike Richard's previous release, the music on this CD is much more focused and lyrical, while remaining as intense as its predecessor.
In summary, this CD would be an extremely welcome addition to your collection, especially for guitar enthusiasts, but also for anyone who appreciates quality in musical performance.