Eric Johnson and Mike Stern review…October 27, 2014…

ERIC JOHNSON AND MIKE STERN

ECLECTIC

HEADS UP RECORDS  HUI 35768-02

ROLL WITH IT–REMEMBER–BENNY MAN’S BLUES–WISHING WELL–BIGFOOT–TIDAL–YOU NEVER KNOW–DRY ICE–SOMETIMES–HULLABALOO–WHEREVER YOU GO–RED HOUSE

The seeds for this album were sown when these two guitar giants played a show together at the Blue Note in New York in August, 2013.  The ease with which their styles blended and meshed opened the door for this fantastic collaboration, entitled “Eclectic,’ to come to fruition.

Eric Johnson has been on the contemporary blues scene for nearly thirty years.  (We were fortunate to see him open for B. B. King back in 1993, and he was an amazing talent then.)  He’s won a Grammy for his instrumental, “Cliffs Of Dover” in 1990, and has ten albums released as a bandleader to date.

Mike Stern, himself Grammy-nominated six times, blends rock firepower with melodic jazz harmonies.  The two of them together have made a fantastic album, with neither man getting in the way of the other, just letting their natural, creative juices flow.

The journey takes flight with the blues grooves of “Roll With It,” with lead vocal from Austin soul man Malford Milligan.  “Benny Man Swing” has both players having a lot of fun, in tribute to Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian.  Christopher Cross takes backing vocals at the bridge of Mike’s wistful “Wishing Well,” as Mike sings the verses.

Both men show off sme serious chops on “Tidal,” Eric’s homage to one of his heroes, Wes Montgomery.  Mike does the same thing with “Remember,” patterned after John Coltrane’s “Impressions.”  And, “Hullabaloo” features the pair’s sizzling fretwork over a punchy horn section.

Our favorite was the bluesiest cut on the set.  Eric and Mike swap vocal verses on “Red House,”  with Guy Forsyth on harp, which had only one flaw—it was TOO SHORT!

Yes, “Eclectic” will be a good term to describe this scintillating set from Eric Johnson and Mike Stern.  One can also use “fiery,” Brilliant,” and, even “jaw-dropping,” as this is a guitar lover’s dream come true!!   Until next tme…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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