Lots of folks throw around the phrase “let the music do the talking,” but only a few have the fortitude to really do it – to just go out there and play, shunning flash, shrugging off image and reeling in the listener on the strength of the songs alone.
Johnny A. is that kind of performer. For the better part of three decades, the Massachusetts-based guitarist and bandleader has proven himself capable of generating heat at venues from working-class bars to international amphitheaters – and every sort of venue in between. And when the house lights are turned up, he’s just as adept at captivating serious students of the six-string with a virtuosity that earned him the rare honor of having his name placed on a signature Gibson® guitar.
“I want to create instrumental music and deliver it like a vocalist,” he says “You can be a great player, on any instrument, and people will take notice for a while…but what people really remember is someone who brings them a great melody.”
On Driven, his fourth outing as a solo performer – which is due for release this June -- Johnny serves up plenty of that, in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins and Ben and Jerry’s combined. From the Motown-inflected party-starter “C’Mon, C’mon” to the introspective “A Mask You Wear” (a song that’s flecked with subtle slide playing redolent of George Harrison’s vintage work), he paints vivid landscapes, scenes that create an emotional connection without words.
Nowhere is that more evident than on the album’s sole cover, a languid take on the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody,” which fuses the original’s mournful poignancy with a gentle jazziness – not to mention an underlying swing that’s all the more impressive when you consider that it, like the rest of Driven, is the product of a one-man band.
While Johnny has been a bandleader for most of his career, he opted to work alone on this outing. That meant playing all the album’s instruments himself, but it also meant producing and engineering the songs – which he recorded in a studio that he invested plenty of blood, sweat and tears in building.
“It was different, but it wasn’t all that difficult,” he says of going the solo route on this outing. “I started out as a drummer, so I knew what I was doing there, and I just built the songs on my own. I just visualized myself as the band – I could see myself playing everything, and doing it all at once.”
That take-no-prisoners attitude has been ingrained in Johnny A. since he first set foot on a stage, whether as leader of locally-acclaimed Boston acts like Hearts on Fire or in the company of acclaimed artists like J. Geils frontman Peter Wolf – whose band he anchored for more than seven years. It fully came to the fore in 1999, when he independently issued his first solo album, Sometime Tuesday Morning – a disc that eventually went on to sell 100,000 copies and spawn “Oh Yeah,” a single that topped the AAA charts (a feat no instrumental song had accomplished in more than a decade).
7pm doors | 8pm show | $25 adv. | $30 day of