Blood Moon Boulder review at Aquarium Drunkard

http://www.aquariumdrunkard.com/2015/07/09/chuck-johnson-blood-moon-boulder/

Chuck Johnson’s 2013 long player Crows in the Basilica was one of the finest guitar soli excursions in recent memory. His latest release, Blood Moon Boulder, might just be even better. Gorgeously recorded by Trans Am’s Phil Manley, the half-dozen tracks here showcase Johnson’s powerful six-string mastery, as the guitarist rolls out one breathtaking composition after the next.

Like Daniel Bachman’s recent River, Blood Moon Boulder kicks off with an ambitious, extended work: the 11+ minute “Corvid Tactics” is captivating from the first note to the last, calling to mind John Fahey’s Fare Forward Voyagers period or Ry Cooder in an expansive frame of mind. The driving Americana of “Silver Teeth in the Sun” follows, with a descending minor-key melody that is perfectly complemented by the wistful mood of “Medicine Map.” Johnson throws the rulebook out the window on the meditative closing track, “Private Violence,” filling the frame with lonesome electric guitar and luminous pedal steel. All in all,Blood Moon Boulder is a widescreen stunner, music to lose yourself in. Don’t miss it. words / t wilcox

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Paste Magazine reviews Blood Moon Boulder

http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/06/chuck-johnson-blood-moon-boulder-review.html

As guitarist Chuck Johnson continues his work in the American Primitive tradition, pulling from the long history of folk, blues, and gospel in his own compositions, his music has gotten much more melodically entrancing and deeply emotional. The opening track of his third full-length album, Blood Moon Boulder—the nearly 12-minute long “Corvid Tactics”—feels like its own little short story. Johnson builds that emotive resonance with the same calm that he uses to move between the finger-picked melodies and the raga-like slide guitar lines that swirl around each other. The song keeps evolving and expanding until a bouncy rhythm takes over that will leave you feeling as if you’ve burst through the clouds and are soaring in open sky.

While the sheer length of the songs that make up the rest of this touching LP ensure that they won’t take the listener on a journey quite so expansive, the music still lands all the right beats, just on a smaller scale, such as when Johnson halts the otherwise playful and burbling “Silver Teeth in the Sun” in its tracks for a minute of long, drawn-out chords. When the original finger-picked melody returns, the mood of it has changed completely into something far more melancholic. Or there’s the beautiful “Private Violence,” which features a mournful electric guitar melody intercut with pedal steel and the occasional hum of a violin, that slowly dissipates into a grey wash of drone. It would not be a surprise to learn that some powerful event happened in Johnson’s life before writing this material.

Of all the solo instrumental guitarists that are currently enjoying a groundswell in interest and acclaim, Johnson continues to prove himself to be one of the leading lights of this welcome revival. And with Blood Moon Boulder, he’s moved even further ahead of the pack. The six songs here feel elevated not only by Johnson’s impressive technique and writing but also his willingness to not leave anything covering up his musical intentions. Even if you don’t know exactly what moment or memory helped inspired a particular track, the glowing core of sentiment at the center of each one is tangible and unmistakable.

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Blood Moon Boulder review at Aquarium Drunkard

http://www.aquariumdrunkard.com/2015/07/09/chuck-johnson-blood-moon-boulder/

Chuck Johnson’s 2013 long player Crows in the Basilica was one of the finest guitar soli excursions in recent memory. His latest release, Blood Moon Boulder, might just be even better. Gorgeously recorded by Trans Am’s Phil Manley, the half-dozen tracks here showcase Johnson’s powerful six-string mastery, as the guitarist rolls out one breathtaking composition after the next.

Like Daniel Bachman’s recent River, Blood Moon Boulder kicks off with an ambitious, extended work: the 11+ minute “Corvid Tactics” is captivating from the first note to the last, calling to mind John Fahey’s Fare Forward Voyagers period or Ry Cooder in an expansive frame of mind. The driving Americana of “Silver Teeth in the Sun” follows, with a descending minor-key melody that is perfectly complemented by the wistful mood of “Medicine Map.” Johnson throws the rulebook out the window on the meditative closing track, “Private Violence,” filling the frame with lonesome electric guitar and luminous pedal steel. All in all,Blood Moon Boulder is a widescreen stunner, music to lose yourself in. Don’t miss it. words / t wilcox

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Dusted reviews Blood Moon Boulder

http://dustedmagazine.tumblr.com/post/123553523774/chuck-johnson-blood-moon-boulder-scissor-tail

You can’t accuse Chuck Johnson of doing the same thing over and over again. In the 22 years since his first release, a 7” split between his combo Spatula and another band called Evil Weiner, he’s played twangy and/or mathy instrumental rock, ethnographic forgeries, cooking show soundtracks, minimal electronics and acoustic Americana. He’s played electric, steel and acoustic guitars as well as analog synthesizers. And even when he sticks to the same track for a while, he switches things up.

Blood Moon Boulder is Johnson’s third record in an American Primitive vein. Like its predecessors, Crows In The Basilica and A Struggle Not A Thought, it evidences his appreciation for the style’s traditions, but it doesn’t reach back quite so far. Both of those albums had moments where the former North Carolina resident openly honored fellow Tar Heel Elizabeth Cotton; on “Silver Teeth In The Sun,” the second track on this six-song LP, takes its dynamics and bass line from the John Fahey playbook and obtains from them a similar atmosphere of apprehension. But he takes it in a different direction, adding the additional anxiety of speed; as the tune slows up and down, you don’t just feel the emotion of its atmosphere and implied narrative but the uncertainty of just where it’ll all go next and how fast.

Johnson also takes on the raga-influenced side of the genre, savoring voluptuous slide licks on the opener “Corvid Tactics” that bridge the gap between the Ganges and Mississippi deltas. Most likely he paid close attention to Jack Rose’s similar efforts; Johnson is an academic with a degree from Mills College and some classroom teaching time on his CV, so he knows the merits of research. But by merging American and Asian elements, he’s simultaneously connecting his recent practice with the work he used to do before the turn of the century in Idyll Swords.

The boundaries between Johnson’s multiple methodologies grow even more porous on “The Deer And The Snake,” another Indian-flavored piece that holds the center of side two. Overdubbed violin and electronics set up subliminal drones that hover like a heat haze, and then the music dissolves into a sea of undulating resonance smudges the line between Johnson’s solo work and the music of his electronics-and-voice duo, Blood Wedding. Something similar happens on the electrified closer, “Private Violence.” Johnson has spent a lot of time doing different things quite well; on Blood Moon Boulder, he displays equal facility at putting them together.

Bill Meyer

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NPR Premieres “Silver Teeth in the Sun” Video

NPR Music premiered the video for “Silver Teeth in the Sun” from the Blood Moon Boulder LP.  Copies of the LP ship out starting June 29!

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“Medicine Map” premiere at Secret Decoder

Decoder Magazine is premiering the track “Medicine Map” from my upcoming Blood Moon Boulder LP. Pre-orders are available at Scissor Tail Editions. 

 

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