Thought I would pass on my thoughts about Jelly Roll Johnson’s latest recording “The Land Of Dreams.” For those of you who don’t know, Jelly Roll is originally from Louisiana. His musical thoughts and style drip with that influence. This project is one that I suspect was something he wanted to do for some time.
Over time, do harp players get more jaded than other musicians? About to round up to my 45th year of playing, and with that many years talking to other harp players, it often seems that way. Our instrument just hasn’t found its way into a lot of musical styles: Quick, name me the top five jazz, pop, Americana, Grunge and classical players!!
It was early December 2012 when I got a call from my good friend Jelly Roll Johnson. After a bit of Nashville chitchat, Jelly informed me that he was about to record an EP of 7 songs.
This immediately got my attention since Jelly Roll does not take documenting his playing lightly. In February I got another call from the maestro asking if I would be interested in mastering the project. I said yes.
For those of us who pay attention to who’s behind the music on hit records, Jelly Roll Johnson is no stranger. His credits over the last 20 years, reads like a who’s who of Country Music. So, when Jelly Roll releases a CD with his harmonica playing front and center, it makes me sit up and take notice.
First, a new CD from Nashville Studio maven, Jelly Roll Johnson. I did review his previous CD were Jelly backed up some of the finest Singer-Songwriters in Nashville, but here is a totally instrumental project. Jelly calls his new CD Songs from the Record World because they are covers of songs most of us are familiar with- ones that inspired his muse…
Many friends of mine who usually listen to jazz-blues cds often complain about the boring routine that often is found in west coast modern blues works. These works sometimes are far from the fascinating sounds made by the creators of this style such as T – Bone Walker and George “Harmonica” Smith. Here is a disc that they will certainly like.
Jelly Roll Johnson’s latest CD really is superb – the kind of disc you wouldn’t be embarrassed to give to a non harp player. I realized I’d listened to ‘Songs From The Record Room’ a dozen or more times, in every room of the house, for plain musical enjoyment. Really a different response for me – I usually whip out harps and immediately start ‘playing along’.
Jelly is a master.Quite often becoming a master involves a process of addition: whereby more techniques, skills, qualities, experiences etc. are accumulated and added, enhancing the doer. A lot can be accomplished this way.Another way involves subtraction: whereby the work is still done, the materials and techniques learned, and rather than adding, they serve to subtract, or remove any blocks, difficulties, preferences etc.
I received my copy of Jelly Roll Johnson’s latest CD “Songs From The Record World” last week, and had the opportunity to listen to the CD straight through 4 times on a long drive. And I enjoyed every minute of all 4 spins. The CD is basically a jazz quartet recording with Jelly playing acoustic harp (diatonic and chromatic) backed by a trio of electric guitar, bass, and drums. The overall approach is very traditional in every sense, no wild electronics or frenzied atonal explorations.
Jelly Roll Johnson dips into his wide-ranging songbook and delivers a top-notch CD.
I first met Kirk “Jelly Roll” Johnson at a SPAH convention a number of years ago. It was at one of the late night blues jams, and I had no idea who he was, a quiet gentleman with an unassuming manner. Then he tossed off a jaw-dropping solo that was both elegant and soulful, and I nudged the fellow next to me and asked “Who the heck is that guy?” I was informed that he was Mr. Jelly Roll Johnson, a Nashville session player of great renown.
Jelly Roll is not only a master at the musical understatement, but he also has a powerful way of playing to the strengths of the harmonica while still giving a clear nod to the contemporary playing styles. Hear for yourself why he has long been one of Nashville’s top players and one of my personal favorites.