If you’re a guitar player and not one of those kinds of players that just started and feels that Jim Root or John 5 is the best guitar player in recorded history, then you might find my review of this new CD from the singularly talented Nick Johnston worth reading. If you are not a guitar player or one of the aforementioned goofballs, then READ NO FURTHER.
The deal is, I like Canadians and as many of you know, I spent my honeymoon in Canada and even talked my new bride into touring the Larrivee guitar factory whilst on this glorious week in Vancouver. We even feature Fake Charlie Whiting on our podcasts and he’s a tried and true Canuck as well as fake race director.
Well, another on of my favorite Canadian’s is a guy named Nick Johnston. Now the Formula 1 community may not be very hip to Nick’s fabulous playing and it may not be your cup of Moet but let me assure you, as a guitar player for decades, that his chops and skills are nothing short of sublime.
Nick has a few CD’s out and his newest, Atomic Mind, was just released. In fairness, I don’t have a copy of the CD yet as I have been streaming it on Spotify. I need to remedy that ASAP because Nick deserves some support.
The new CD features a blistering duet (Silver Tongued Devil) with another otherworldly and epically talented guitarist named Guthrie Govan. If you are not hip to his mad skills, you’ll have to Google him and you’ll quickly realize how massively talented he is. Preposterously great and insultingly talented.
[vsw id=”rNOYrZRVl4s” source=”youtube” width=”600″ height=”400″ autoplay=”no”]
Nick’s new CD is a real sonic treat and it’s very guitar-forward which you’d expect for a guitarist. But here’s the thing about the way Nick approaches guitar music, it’s done with complete homage to the traditional sense of a song. It is not simply 3 minutes of shred like a Tony MacAlpine CD or an exercise in mental masturbation like a Yngwie Malmsteen CD.
What Nick possesses is a sense of musicality that ties every minute of his music to a format our minds are trained to understand. It pulls us through the song in which Nick layers and colors the space with terrific talent and attention to detail.
This means that songs build and takes shape as any song should. It’s not a metronome with some guy shredding scales. There’s a delicacy here in tracks such as Atomic Mind and Last Deals of Dead Men.
As a guitar player, I couldn’t carry Nick’s guitar case but I’m not that kind of player. I’m a blues pentatonic type of guy in the realm of David Gilmour so Nick’s skill is mind-bending for me and beyond my grasp. It’s not this lack of mental understanding of Nick’s playing that awes me, though. It’s his musicality and his penchant for tone and nuance. It’s his phraseology that counts as his contribution to the music world.
His solo for Locked Room is an example. The impetus for it? A Mosquito. When you listen, you’ll hear it.
[vsw id=”rbDg9bvssVw” source=”youtube” width=”600″ height=”400″ autoplay=”no”]
Guitar albums aren’t everyone’s bag and I understand that but in the world of guitar albums, Nick is a must-listen. Nick himself is about as nice of a guy as you will meet. He’s been very pleasant in my interactions with him and really has a fun and quirky side to him that is entrenched in relic space and comic oddities—he’s awesome in that way with iconography and strong imagery for his love and passion of the genre.
If you have time, check out Nick’s work on Spotify or better yet, his Facebook page or website. If you like it, support it. He’s a terrific guy who I think you’ll find is as nuanced and civil as his playing is. I like that about Nick and I like his work very much and I’m not normally a guitar god CD kind of guy. My CD collection is not ripe with Satriani, Vai, Malmsteen, Gilbert and others. It does have Nick though and perhaps that’s the biggest compliment I can give this incredibly talented young man.