San Francisco Bay Area-based slide guitar master Dennis Johnson announces a September 15 release date for Rhythmland, his latest CD on the Root Tone Records label. Johnson plans to release his first single off the new disc, “Timbale” to iTunes on August 1, and will celebrate the new album with a special CD release party show on September 15 at the Guild Theater in Sacramento. Listen to “Timbale” here.
Rhythmland was produced by Dennis Johnson and Craig Long and recorded at Paradise Studios in Sacramento. On the CD, Dennis Johnson (guitar, vocals) is backed by his band, dubbed The Mississippi Ramblers: Tim Metz – drums; Jonathan Stoyanoff – bass; and Craig Long - keyboards, background vocals. Johnson also wrote nine of the album’s ten songs and spins a unique take on the classic, “Walkin’ Blues.”
Rhythmland explores Americana, roots, blues, Latin, rock and folk rhythms with standout improvisational sections. “I wanted to make a diverse album with great rhythms, lyrics and improvisation,” says Dennis. “The rhythms on the record really pull the listener in. That’s one reason we called the record Rhythmland.”
Inspiring lyrics and vocals are spotlighted on songs like “Faith” and “That Way No More.” Adds Dennis: “I am really happy with the lyrics on this record. The lyrics are based on life experiences and delve into important guiding principles to help you get through the ups and downs of life. These are lessons I have lived. The songs on the album tell some great stories.”
Rhythmland also features several innovative slide guitar techniques. “I came up with techniques like halftime rhythmic slides and artificial harmonic slides that you hear on the Latin cascara song, ‘Timbale,’” he explains. “I have learned to think rhythm first, and it takes slide guitar to a whole new level. It’s not about how many notes you play, but what you do with the notes you choose. I want to support the rhythms of the song.”
In the studio, Johnson worked with co-producer Craig Long to find unique guitar tones that fit with the songs and other instruments. “There are some great guitar tones on the record,” he proclaims. The 12-string dobro just sings on the band's version of “Walkin’ Blues;” Dennis' 1961 Martin New Yorker demonstrates a beautiful acoustic resonance on the jazz-flavored “My Love Is Here for You” and just rips on the barrelhouse “High Heel Shoes.”
“He well deserves the name of master slide guitarist.” – RootsTime Magazine
San Francisco native Dennis Johnson is one of the hardest working musicians with a deep passion for preserving and innovating roots music. He is one of roots music's best kept secrets.
Johnson realized at a young age that music was his calling. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, he heard the music of Chuck Berry and it struck a chord with him. As a teenager, he taught himself the guitar and discovered his passion for slide guitar. He discovered the music of Robert Johnson, (Bay Area favorites) Roy Rogers and Norton Buffalo and was hooked. Dennis recalled “seeing Roy play the first time really blew me away; he’s a huge influence on my music.”
The iconic Robert Johnson's approach to guitar was the blueprint for Dennis’ evolution as a guitarist. “Robert‘s guitar playing sounded like two guitars,” Dennis explains. “It’s a blend of rhythm and slide phrases that sound like two guitarists are playing when it’s really one. I approach guitar in much the same way.”
The road to becoming a professional musician was paved when Dennis met Delta blues legend David “Honeyboy” Edwards. “I was at a personal crossroads in deciding whether to be a musician. Honeyboy told me, ‘If you like to play the blues, play the blues!’ The eloquence of that statement was in its simplicity. When I shook Honeyboy's hand I felt an energy there. This was a profound moment in my life. It was fate.”
Honeyboy's advice turned out to be a risk that paid off. In 2010, Dennis Johnson released his first album, Slide Show, to critical acclaim. Slide Show rose to the Top 50 blues CDs worldwide and No. 21 on the California Roots Radio Charts.
In Slide Avenue, Johnson pushed the boundaries of slide guitar with amazing instrumental conversations between slide guitar and saxophone, fiddle, piano, B3 organ, Wurlitzer and more. The album seamlessly blended swing, blues, New Orleans, rock, roots and folk music. The radio charts, reviews and audience response proved the results were stellar. Slide Avenue rose to the top of the Roots Music Report radio charts.
“Rhythmland happened because I spent a lot of time exploring rhythms. Once the grooves were found, the lyrics came easily. I was fortunate to collaborate with two accomplished musicians, drummer Tim Metz and bassist Jonathan Stoyanoff, on arranging some of the tunes. The result is an album I feel is our best material to date.”
Dennis Johnson Tour Dates
7/22 Sierra Valley Farms Food, Blues & Views Concert Series Beckwourth, CA
8/22 Burlingame on the Avenue Festival – 1 PM Burlingame, CA
9/9-9/10 Coors Light Crawfish Festival
9/15 Guild Theater - Rhythmland CD Release Party Sacramento, CA
10/7 Emerald of Siam
10/10 McMenamin’s White Eagle
10/11 McMenamin’s Old Church
10/20 Live from the Divide