Johnny A Driven
pledge news

by Scott McLennan
Worcester Telegram and Gazette  

A New Approach 

After a time as Peter Wolf's designated picker, Johnny A. decided to find his own instrumental voice.  His CD, "Sometime Tuesday Morning," will melt away preconceived notions of what instumental guitar albums are supposed to sound like. 

Johnny A.'s guitar CD reflects his subtle tastes 

Hotshot guitarists don't necessarily have the skills to hit the entertainment bull's eye when venturing out on their own. 

Just listen to one of those shredding guitar albums, which are great if you're working on some sort of advanced degree at Berklee.  But to an average listener, those kinds of records can be dense and dull. 

Johnny A. was well aware of the pitfalls before making his "solo" debut on compact disc.  And he made sure that "Sometime Tuesday Morning" was not just a shred fest that would dazzle fellow guitarists. 

In Wolf's Pack 

"I love songs and songwriters as well as great guitar players," said Johnny A., and yes that's his name.  "I'm just as enamored by Gerry Rafferty as by Wes Montgomery."

 "Sometime Tuesday Morning" seems to have taken a cue from Jeff Beck's "Blow By Blow" or Carlos Santana's "Blues For Salvador" projects; basically, the essence of of the songs and the skills of the guitarist beautifully intertwine, with the two with the elements supporting each other rather than one overshadowing the other. 

Some may recall Johnny A.'s appearances in the area as a member of Peter Wolf's Houseparty Five.  In the six year's that Johnny A. basically anchored Wolf's live band, he proved himself to a fiery blues-based rock În' roller.  "Sometime Tuesday Morning" suggests that with Wolf, Johnny A. was just scratching the surface of his talents. 

"The difference between this and other guitar instrumental projects is that mine comes from more of a pop sensibility," Johnny A. said, pointing to the instrumental phrasings and sense of melody Beck injected into his hallmark albums from the 70's.  "I wanted to create songs where the guitar was the vocalist." 

Johnny A. covered a range from hipster jazz to blues to ballads on his CD.  There's some twang and a lullaby, too.  As for breadth, just consider the cover tunes: the Glen Campbell-identified "Wichita Lineman," Beatles' B-Side "Yes It Is," Willie Cobb's blues standard "You Don't Love Me" many will recognize from "Allman Brothers Band At The Fillmore East," and The Venture's "Walk Don't Run."  Whew. 

Music He Loved 

Each of the covers has a fresh stamp to it.  Johnny A. said each was chosen to show some aspect of music he loved listening to growing up, but none sound like warmed-over retreads. 

And the covers help serve as reference points for a listener getting used to Johnny A.'s style for the first time.  Once acclimated, the player's originals become all the brighter. 

The CD's title track plus "In The Wind" and "Walkin' West Ave." hang together as a jazzy trilogy of sorts that weaves its way through the disc.  The songs are respectively spread out as the opening tune, fifth track and closing number on the 12-cut disc.  The mood of each song takes on a characteristic of the passing day with "Sometime Tuesday Morning" evoking the dawning rays of the sun; "In The Wind" capturing the activity of the day; and "Walkin' West Ave." conjuring the smoky magic that can happen only at night. 

Proven Chops 

Johnny A. also leans on his proven rock În' roll chops for the original "Oh Yeah."  And some fine twangy picking highlights "Up In The Attic."  In short, Johnny A. serves you up a balanced meal on his first platter as a band leader. 

Johnny A. recorded the project with bass player Ed Spargo and Worcecter-bred drummer Craig MacIntyre.  The crack rythm section is also with Johnny A. on his current run of shows. 

Kicked Around 

Johnny A., who lives in Salem and grew up around the North Shore, kicked around in various bands, notably Hearts On Fire, and played with Bobby Whitlock, keyboardist for Derek and the Dominos fame, before landing the gig with Wolf.  Johnny A. co-produced and played on Wolf's 1996 CD "Long Line" and played a bit on the critically lauded follow-up, "Fool's Parade." When Wolf went back to The J. Geils Band last year for a reunion, Johnny A. decided to put together something that wasn't reliant on a strong frontman-singer. He also learned how to read music. 

"I always played by ear.  Then when I lost my day job, I had time and was sitting around and thinking how much I like going into a bar and hearing some cat playing piano or guitar all alone and giving you the whole song.  I figured I needed learn how to read to be able to do that," he said. 

In the process of slowly absorbing chords, Johnny A. realized that much of his self-taught style mirrored piano chording. 

"I found my own voicings and the instrumental thing took on its own voice.  It started to all melt together," he said. 

And guaranteed, "Sometime Tuesday Morning" will melt away preconceived notions of what guitar instrumental albums are supposed to sound like in this day and age.

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