Eric Johnson is “one of the most respected guitarists on the planet,” says Guitar Player magazine, and the reasons why are many. Such primary ones as the lyrical beauty of his playing and compositions, his rich and colorfully broad palette of tones, his awesome instrumental agility, breadth and command, and the mesmerizing spell he summons up in concert. All of these qualities can be heard on his new album, Europe Live (Provogue / Mascot Label Group).
Europe Live was recorded in venues across Johnson's tour of the continent, with the majority of the album capturing his appearance at Amsterdam's Melkweg along with selections from two dates in Germany at Die Kantine in Köln and Bochum Zeche and the Paris show at New Morning. Each appearance featured a unique set list, offering Johnson the opportunity to cull this track listing from a wealth of repertoire captured. It's both a treat for his longtime followers and a compelling compendium of his dazzling diversity for those less fully acquainted with his legacy that amply demonstrates Johnson's potency as both a player and entertainer. Johnson shares, "The Amsterdam show really captured a great spirit and the tracks from the two shows in Germany were the best recordings of those songs from the tour. Paris was the only show where I recorded the acoustic performance."
Although he may be best known as the masterful studio craftsman behind his acclaimed
"There's a certain spark and spontaneity and just that X factor that happens when you play live, whether it's in a living room for friends or by yourself or in the studio or in concert," Johnson observes. "It's like a secret dynamo that's so important and really affects the impact of what you're listening to and how it entertains people."
Over his seven studio albums, Johnson has delivered three Top 10 hits ("Cliffs of Dover," "Trademark" and "Righteous") and two Top 40 singles ("Pavilion" and "High Landrons"). N.A.R.A.S. has celebrated his career with six Grammy nominations, while periodicals in the music space have honored with him for decades. He is enshrined in Guitar Player magazine’s "Gallery of Greats," while Musician Magazine named him one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of the 20th Century. He continues to refine and expand his musical brilliance in his own electric and acoustic tours (playing both guitar and piano), and his recent live collaborations on both electric guitar with jazz player Mike Stern and slide master Sonny Landreth. Johnson is a frequent featured artist on the Experience Hendrix tours, as well as acoustic excursions with the likes of Andy McKee and Peppino D’Agostino.
"Working on this live record was kind of an epiphany for me because I realized that this is where it's at, no matter where you're playing, it should be a performance," notes Johnson. "The more I do that the more I realize, wow, there's something special there. I'm enjoying playing more now because I am so committed to making sure that facet is really up front, one of the number one things. And I've been doing it in the studio when people send me tracks to play on, and I say, okay, hit record, and let's just do this all the way through. And I listen back and go, wow, that's just more interesting and enjoyable to listen to."
Johnson all but immediately became an international guitar sensation with his first album release in 1986, Tones, on Warner Bros. Records, which signed him at the urging of Prince after he saw Eric's 1984 appearance as an unsigned artist on "Austin City Limits" and Christopher Cross, who first heard Johnson in the Austin clubs they both played. Tones inspired Guitar Player magazine to feature him in a cover story that touted the album as "a majestic debut," and it earned him his first Grammy nomination for "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" with the track “Zap.”
Starting on classical piano in his youth, Johnson shifted to the guitar after the
Stateside arrival of The Beatles and the British Invasion. He avidly explored a spectrum
of styles that included rock'n'roll, jazz, blues, and country. Initially, he wowed
listeners playing the Austin-
Europe Live spotlights such critical praise he has earned for the way he "entices listeners with seductive sounds and soulful playing rather than seeking to impress solely with displays of technical virtuosity" (Guitar Player) and how he "plays guitar the way Michelangelo painted ceilings: with a colorful vibrancy that's more real than life" (The New Age Music Guide). For as Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles notes, "Few rock guitarists can take an audience on an unforgettable journey like Eric Johnson can."
Avidly collaborative, Johnson first started recording with others in the 1980s on
sessions for Cat Stevens, Christopher Cross and Carole King, and has since recorded
and/or performed with Rodney Crowell, Richard Marx, Jennifer Warnes, Carla Olson,
Chet Atkins, B.B. King, James Burton, Steve Miller, Jerry Reed, Steve Vai and Joe
Satriani (on the original G3 tour), John McLaughlin, Jimmie Vaughan, Sonny Landreth,
Dweezil Zappa and Adrian Legg, and many more. He has paid homage in song to such
players as Jerry Reed (“Tribute to Jerry Reed” on Bloom), fellow Texan Stevie Ray
Vaughan (the Grammy-
Throughout his career he has consistently won and placed high in numerous readers and critic polls conducted by guitar publications, most recently in 2010 when he was named Guitarist of the Year by Guitar International. Eric has also won more Austin Music Awards (33) than anyone else since they began in 1981, including Musician of the Year and Best Electric & Acoustic Guitarist plus Best Instrumental & Video, and was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame in its first year in 1983.
He follows Europe Live with an album with his friend and fellow guitarist Mike Stern
and is composing and recording tracks for both a new electric album as well as his
first acoustic guitar release. Additionally, Johnson has embraced the digital age,
releasing tracks via his site . Currently, songs that include
"To Whom It May Concern," "Imagination Of You -
Eric Johnson -