CD REVIEW: Johnny J Blair - Treadmarks
By Francesco Emmanuel - 11/07/2005 - 03:59 PM EST
Artist: Johnny Blair
Slide, and more slide, a whistle, a lil foot stompin bluesgrass here and there. And so starts off Johnny J Blair's Treadmarks. The first song entitled 'One Planet - One Utopia-One Helmet' just has a rather silly feel to it (one could'nt really expect anything else from a title like this, honestly), the way Blair sings/talks certain words between verse and chorus makes you question, 'Is this guy for real?', oh but he is, and he does a superb job of playing the part of a bohmenian songster, bellowing alone in this desert that has become our modern-day landscape of rubbish. (sorry, music)
He plays a great sounding 12-string, his favourite key is a low C tuning, which I quite liked, his songs are humourous mixed with somber reality, his voice hints of Lou Reed.
Blair switches between falsetto, a raspy growl to a deep-throat sound, then back to a nasal whisper, and yet back again to his growl, it's quite a combination. And if that wasn't enough, he talks now and then as well.
There's songs where he strums the living daylights out of his guitar, switching between a multitude of chords and singing with the same conviction, at some point you think, 'ok, so he's gonna burst a few strings'. Then comes the next song, mellow and sober in thought, but yet still fresh.
Some of his ideas are so much against the grain that at first, it maybe a little difficult for the average pop listener to grasp. To that I can safely say, time to expand your musical library, and open your ears a lil bit. Not everything has to fit into a particular category or follow a certain formatted structure.
After his quirky opener, the second song 'Music up inside of me' starts off with a catchy lick, Blair sings the guitar parts. The strings get played in a way that makes it seem as if he's slapping his guitar, it's practically an R & B number. And after reaching a crescendo in 'I like the street' Johnny stops and says ' Beep, Beep', man, what a genius! that takes guts nowadays to be so bold.
The last song, 'Prelude: Green-on-Red/Frontiers of love', besides being over six minutes long, has such a continuous opening slide sorta riff, that I immediately hear some heavy guitars and a solid bass groove, but again, Blair transposes many positions, executes continuous slurs on that 12-string of his, sings the guitar harmony, puts in a few harmonics, mutes a chord or two, shifts to D, then opens his singing for the main verse in the key of F. It ends with Johnny singing in a rather free, silly fashion 'woo-hoo', over and over.
A rather fitting ending to a solo record full of originality, guts and feel.
Blair's previous credits include Fire (2000), Exotic Animals & Beaches of Pennsylvania (2001), Snapshots (2003) and his contribution piece 'Sunday Morning' to After Hours: a Tribute to the Music of Lou Reed (2003).
Johnny has been getting praise from the likes of Davy Jones (The Monkees) and Brian Wilson for his work. And it's clear to see why, he's unorthodox, he's impressive both as a guitar player and singer, he knows what he's doing, and he does it well.
So keep on singing Johnny, keep on singing.
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