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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).

The in-concert collection's 14 tracks draw from throughout Johnson's career and include two new compositions: The mesmeric "Intro" that opens the set, and the rollicking rocker "Evinrude Fever" (that alludes to his love for water skiing and boating). His Grammy-winning instrumental "Cliffs of Dover" and Grammy nominated "Zap" are performed with fresh and vigorous energy, and he shows his ever-deepening skills as a singer on such numbers as his soaring, blues-tinged salute to his hometown, "Austin," and the airy and glistening "40 Mile Town." Johnson's lifelong love of jazz and more recent forays into playing it emerges on his stunning nine-and-a-half minute interpretation of John Coltrane's "Mr. P.C." on which bassist Chris Maresh and drummer Wayne Salzmann also step out with power. The song selection ranges from an acoustic guitar rendition of "A Song For Life" which he initially cut on his debut studio album to the ferociously funky "Fatdaddy" from his most recent release, Up Close.  Johnson celebrates his side-project Alien Love Child with the hard-driving rock workout "Zenland," and the eleven-and-a-half minute multimodal suite "Last House On The Block." Originally released in 1996, the fan favorite "Manhattan" shines, while a gloriously cinematic rearrangement of "When the Sun Meets the Sky," titled "Sun Reprise" closes the set.

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 million-plus selling breakout 1990 album Ah Via Musicom and its Top 10 hit "Cliffs of Dover," Johnson first made his musical bones and sparked a potent buzz in live performance from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s long before he ever issued an album and was heard on radio. As guitar legend Johnny Winter recalls of seeing Johnson perform back then, "When I first heard Eric, he was only 16, and I remember wishing that I could have played like that at that age."                                                                                               

"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-area nightclubs from the age of 13, joining the psychedelic rock band Mariani. He followed with heavy regional touring while in the jazz-rock fusion group The Electomagnets, and in the late 1970s recorded an album, Seven Worlds, that was finally issued in 1998.  All Music observed the album "showcases all of Johnson's awesome talent – not only as a guitar virtuoso, but as a talented pop/rock songwriter." His other studio discs Venus Isle (1996), Bloom (2005), Up Close (2010) and its stripped-down and revised version for European release Up Close: Another Look have all won high critical acclaim, as did his collection of studio outtakes, demos and live tracks, Souvenir (2002), and his in-concert album with Alien Love Child, Live and Beyond (2000).

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-nominated track “SRV”) and Wes Montgomery (who Johnson saluted in his Ah Via Musicom composition “East Wes”).  Alex Lifeson of Rush credits Johnson as the inspiration for his guitar solo in the song "Cut To The Chase," Steve Morse recorded a song titled "TruthOla" as a tribute to Jeff Beck, Alex Lifeson and Johnson, and Brad Paisley paid homage to "Cliffs of Dover" on his track "Cliffs of Rock City" on his 2008 salute to his influences, Play: The Guitar Album.

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 www.ericjohnson.com.  Currently, songs that include "To Whom It May Concern," "Imagination Of You - A Tribute To George Harrison" (featuring Christopher Cross) and his rendition of "The Wind Cries Mary" are available.  Johnson offers, "The Internet is a creative vehicle to get artist's music heard and level the playing field.  There is no barrier between the creative process and those compositions created reaching the fan."   Johnson continues to reach further and higher as a player, songwriter and singer, and considers being rated one of the greatest at his talents as simply a springboard to new levels of artistry and listener appeal. 

Eric Johnson - Biography