Johnny A Driven
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Malden guitarist Johnny A. picks path of variety
by Daniel Gewertz
Wednesday, June 13, 2001

The stylistic scope and breadth of guitarist Johnny A.'s debut album, ``Sometime Tuesday Morning,'' can be directly tied to his radio tastes as a youth in 1960s Malden.

``On WBCN-FM, in its earliest days, you could hear Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Monkees, Frank Zappa, Muddy Waters, Cream, Mamas and Papas, all in one hour. No format, just good music. My record is like that, jumping around genres. But hopefully my guitar voice is the glue that makes it work,'' said Johnny A., who will appear with his trio at Cambridge's House of Blues on Saturday and will play a free noontime concert at Copley Square Park on Tuesday.

Johnny A.'s fluid tone and easy compositional flair does manage to coalesce the all-instrumental album. The sophisticated yet expressive CD, which was nominated for a Boston Music Award as best indie album, has just been rereleased by California's Favored Nations label and is being distributed nationally for the first time.

``I tried to make a record that isn't about chops but about finding sensibilities. It's meant to make you feel something,'' said Johnny A., who still lives on the North Shore.

It's a daunting task to try to categorize a guitarist as diverse as Johnny A. ``I love the dynamics of jazz, the soul of blues, the edge of rock and I'm a sucker for a good pop song,'' he said.

The mood may be rich, but the fun quotient is high. The originals blend right in with classic songs by the Ventures (``Walk Don't Run''), the Beatles (``Yes It Is'') and Jimmy Webb (``Wichita Lineman'').

But what can you call it? With his smooth facility, lightness of touch and coolness of mood, you might label Johnny A. ``lounge.'' But only if you can imagine a lounge infused with emotion and smarts.

For six years, Johnny A. was in Peter Wolf's employ, a time that forced him to learn a great deal of classic r & b. In 1998, the guitarist found himself at loose ends. After working for Wolf - and organist Bobby Whitlock before that - Johnny A. had to rediscover who he was musically. He began by learning to read music. He wrote extensively. Eventually, he joined forces with bassist Ed Spargo and drummer Craig MacIntyre, both sensitive aces.

Now, with his new label deal, Boston's best-kept guitar secret may be a secret no more.

-Daniel Gewertz

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