By Janet Goodman
At one point or another, many of the finest musicians find their way to bluegrass. This genre is a magnet for acoustic players at the top of their game. In that same spirit, Russell Johnson’s new CD “Anytime Anyplace But Only You” is a gathering place for some of the most mighty proficient pickers around. He has put together dazzling sounds of banjo, mandolin, guitar, dobro and fiddle on this solo project of fourteen songs released on New Time Records.
This smart collection of originals and surprising covers is produced by the busy North Carolina native, who also sings lead for the Grass Cats and New Vintage. His mountain tenor wail of a trademark vocal is tempered by velvety-close harmonies that are, like good chocolate, to die for.
Maroon 5 hit “This Love” is given the bluegrass treatment here, and is an album highlight, as is his take on Shaggy’s reggae tune “Strength of a Woman,” where Johnson gives his choice performance with restrained and relaxed vocals. At every turn, his solid mandolin interpretation is classic roots at its best.
A rendition of Dean Martin’s “Sway” adds a dash of Latin flavoring to the stew pot, and two of Johnson’s music students run away with “Wishing Well Blues.” His self-penned “It’s My Heart” is a swingy and sweet little breakup song, where he tells his girl: “I finally finished packin’/And I’ve loaded up the truck/I took everything we agreed on, nothin’ more/But it seems I’m forgettin’ somethin’/And I know we’re ‘bout to part/Wait a minute…I remember…it’s my heart.”
To break it down to basics, this album is all about steel-string picking and sounds-so-good-it-must-be-blood harmonies…or you could just say it’s Bluegrass with a capital B.
Visit the artist’s website at www.bluegrasstunes.com
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