DAN JOHNSON and THE EXPERT SIDEMEN
"MAGIC GUITAR" AVAILABLE NOW!
It was a long time coming, but the songs got recorded in two sessions at the library here in Richmond, Vermont. I'd been playing with some open-tunings and trying to use a thumbpick some, and a lot of these songs were written while I was playing with these ideas.
I also felt like I wanted to make some connection to the traditional musics that have inspired me, like some of the folk blues and early country and Irish and Scottish ballads. Doesn't always come through like I want it to, so with this set of tunes I included a couple covers to help make that connnection. "Man of Constant Sorrow" is certainly most well-known thanks to Dan Tyminski's rendition, based on the Stanley Brothers, but I have always been most affected by Bob Dylan's version from his eponymous debut. So I included a performance of that tune. I also included "The Wild Rover," a tune I've been hearing most of my life, having grown up in Albany NY around a lot of Irish Americans. My version here doesn't stick to some of the customary parts, but I hope it gets at some of the spirit of the tune.
The other six tracks are originals. The opening cut, "Binghamton," is dedicated to one of my favorite bands, Driftwood, who come out of that part of NY, and to Pete Ruttle, another fine musician from that country, who had helped book me at the Union Hotel one Friday night. I enjoyed my trip down there so much that I thought I'd write a bit of a tune for them. It's built like an old time tune, with the tune and the words doing a lot of the same work.
The next original, "High Lonesome Hills," was originally set to be the title track. I was looking to write something kind of sparse Dylanesque ballad. That, to me, means a ballad with a lot of ambiguous detail. Not ambivalent detail. I was also hoping to push some new tonal ideas, maybe edging into some modal sounds, in much the same way a banjo does, which is tuned pretty close to the open G tuning I used on the guitar. In fact I'd say I borrowed a lot from banjo styles on this record.
The title track is based on a story my dad told me about a guitar he saw down in Nagodoches, TX. He was passing through driving truck, and he saw a magic guitar in a pawn shop. He didn't bring it back for me, but I was able to get a bit of a song out of it. This one also takes an old time approach to words and melody.
The fifth track, "Storms at My Door," came to me between the two recording sessions. It is pretty sophisticated, in that it is one of only two of the originals to have a chorus.
The sixth track began as an effort to challenge the tyranny of my own prosody. So I just started jamming rhymes up and seeing what happened.
Track seven is dedicated to the first person I met in San Francisco, and to the state of Pennsylvania, where they play some good bluegrass and country music.
I hope you enjoy the record. I'd love to hear what you think. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org