Johnny A Driven
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Johnny A.
Sometime Tuesday Morning
(Favored Nations FNP2081-2. Johnny A., prod.; Dave Lefkowitz, eng. DDD.)

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Johnny A.'s a Boston area guitarist who is best known for fronting Peter Wolf's touring band during his post-J. Giles Band period, where he must have played a steady diet of jumped-up blues. Here, he assays an instrumental album that smokes like a Wes Montgomery offering -- if Wes Montgomery were coming from a purely rock perspective.

That's not to say that Johnny A. isn't jazzy at times -- he is. In fact, that's exactly what he is, jazz-y. But he's coming at the music from a purely rock'n'roll attitude. So when he plays Lennon & McCartney's "Yes, It Is," he's not searching for a floating diminished seventh chord to make it jazzy, he's searching for a tone that'll make it pretty.

And make it pretty, he does. He's a tone-meister, whether playing his Les Paul, or his arch-top or any of his vintage guitars or amplifiers. You want twang? Check out his "Walk Don't Run." Pure Ventures -- except he adds some of the tastiest dynamic contrasts you've ever heard, "selling" the song as high drama.

And the recording quality doesn't let him down, either. This is great studio sound -- crisp'n'crunchy and full of color.

Most of the songs here are originals and they swing gently. Johnny A. is backed up by Ed Spargo on bass and Craig McIntyre on drums and the three musicians are as tight as a wet knot. The songs are mostly mellow explorations of simple themes, but Johnny A. is a phenomenal guitarist -- so good you probably won't even notice his chops unless you're a guitarist yourself -- and if you are, you'll be so busy gnashing your teeth, you'll never relax enough to enjoy this recording. Too bad. It's perfect three in the morning, coming down music.

Just listen to "Wichita Lineman." Johnny A. reminds us that it's a pretty melody and that it still has a lot of emotional impact in the hands of a master. For that reminder alone, sometime tuesday morning would be worth checking out. But Johnny A. and crew have crafted an attractive, gentle rocker of an instrumental album -- one I'll be reaching for time and time again.

-Wes Phillips
On HiFi

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