· JAY JESSE JOHNSON - Play That Damn Guitar (GYR050) ·
::T R A C K S::
01. INNER SANCTUM
FORMAT: Audio CD / Digipack
"Play That Damn Guitar", the appropriately titled, mega-awesome 3rd solo studio disc from this amazing, gifted blues/rock axeripper features 11 tracks (58 minutes) of Classic, mind-blowing, over-the-top, bad-ass, killer, bluesy, Hendrix-inspired, heavy guitar power trio riffage from a true axemaster that will rock your world into the next musical dimension. Jay Jesse Johnson (Triple J) reigns supreme on the guitar and proves that he is the REAL deal as he takes his "Damn Guitar" to new levels of insanity and beyond on this tremendous Grooveyard Records disc. A truly remarkable and prolific, hard-hitting bluesy heavy guitar masterpiece.
Jay Jesse Johnson or, as we like to refer to him, "Triple J", is an incredible, seasoned and accomplished guitarist who speaks volumes on the instrument. The Man gives the term "Guitar Hero" new meaning with his latest monumental heavy guitar journey/statement. Johnson deserves all the credit he can get for the vast musical accomplishments he effortlessly displays and documents on the brilliant "Play That Damn Guitar" disc. JJJ is without any doubts one of the best blues-based rock guitarists in the world and he has achieved true greatness with this phenomenal heavy guitar disc that will stand the test of time. From start to finish, "Play That Damn Guitar" is a Complete, mind-blowing heavy guitar monster that represents serious six-string business from an important, inspirational axemaster. Make no mistake, during these tough musical times, we have an awesome new legitimate modern day Guitar Hero to look up to who is on a mission to save REAL Guitar Rock and his name is Jay Jesse Johnson.
"Play That Damn Guitar" also features the incredible powerhouse rhythm section of Steve Shore on Bass and Joe Aparo on Drums. Both excellent talented players in their own right who embellish each track with endless power and groove. Both Aparo and Shore lay down the perfect musical foundation for Johnson to strut his bad-ass, killer bluesy heavy guitar power trio riffage. On the downside, we are extremely sad to say that our "good musical brother" Steve Shore has recently passed since the recording of this disc and the Man will be greatly missed. Steve Shore's low-end bottom kool bass grooves will live on forever through this incredible, timeless musical document. Brother Steve Shore is and always will be our "Four String Angel".
The JAY JESSE JOHNSON: "Play That Damn Guitar" disc is a remarkable bluesy heavy guitar disc that is HIGHLY recommended to fans of the :::TOP THREE::: (((HENDRIX, TROWER & FRANK MARINO))), along with such guitar greats as SRV, JOE BONAMASSA, MICHAEL SCHENKER, RICHIE BLACKMORE, ERIC GALES, LANCE LOPEZ, STEVIE SALAS, RICHIE KOTZEN, CRAIG ERICKSON, BUDDAHEADS, CLAS YNGSTROM AND SKY HIGH and other awesome, world-class bluesy heavy guitar axerippers who rule in the Guitar World. If you love serious bluesy heavy guitar power trio riffage, you owe it to yourself to tune into this amazing and spectacular Guitarist. Even though the whole world has gone crazy, it's time to dig in deep with the Riffage that Matters and "Play Your Damn Guitar" with Jay Jesse Johnson.
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01. INNER SANCTUM
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· reviews ·
When you christen an album "Play That Damn Guitar", there is a certain pressure to prove that you're not a sausage-fingered Fender-fumbler. Indiana gunslinger Johnson passes that test - he's a gloriously fluid axeman.
Classic Rock (Issue #155)
What can I say? From beginning to end, Jay Jesse Johnson's new CD, 'Play That Damn Guitar,' reaches for Saturn but actually surpasses it's reach -- landing on the outer strata of the ever blissful blues- rock cosmos. And speaking of 'strata,' his Stratocaster sound is so reminiscent of Hendrix and Trower, with just enough speed, chops, and vision to make him truly unique, that both of those highly respected guitar gods would no doubt peek down at him -- Hendrix from the clouds and Trower from some pub in England, just to see what he's doing. Indeed, his triple 'J' name is like a subtle but suggestive reminder: he is three times as good, three times as fast, and three times as potent as any of the other guitar virtuosos now walking the earth. His concluding track, a tribute to Jimi, simply has to be heard to be believed. This is the guitar slinger to watch out for in the twenty- first century!
Steven J. Rosen, author (March 2009)
Jay Jesse Johnson, one of the most powerful and electrifying guitarists you will ever hear, has just released his third CD, "Play That Damn Guitar". With mind blowing guitar riffs throughout, Jay Jesse Johnson hits the guitar with the same veracity as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Frank Marino and Robin Trower. Coming from the generation of the three finger guitar players, you can hear the heavy sound in his playing and in his song writing.
Play That Damn Guitar showcases Jay Jesse Johnson on guitar and vocals, Steve Shore on bass and Joe Aparo on drums. Produced by Jay Jessie Johnson himself, this CD has eleven blues/rock songs that show a man with a true blues feeling but with an aggressive monster guitar crunch that very few could play like. Steve Shore and Joe Aparo lay down a picture perfect foundation for Johnson's vocals and brutal guitar attack.
Some of the killer tracks on this CD are Bad Blood, Hear No Evil, Shine On, Rattlesnake Stomp and a tribute to Jimi Hendrix called Six String Angel. With an obvious influence of Hendrix, Jay Jesse Johnson has gone above and beyond Hendrix on this CD as each patented lick is pure. Jimi Hendrix put out brilliant guitar work but added, at times, a careless touch to his recordings. Jay Jesse Johnson smokes so hard on this CD I am sure many guitar players will give it up and switch instruments. This CD, Play That Damn Guitar, is a must for blues/rock fans and guitar players who wish to hear how the six string guitar should really be played.
Play That Damn Guitar is available through Grooveyard Records and receives a five-star recommendation.
Derek Emery - LA's The Place (May 2009)
The year is 2009. And let me ask you a question: does the world no longer have a need for guitar heroes? Is it a lost, forgotten extinct art form like dinosaurs or Stonehenge? Are we just to be satisfied and content with a few legendary guitar heroes whose last names end in Hendrix, Page and Van Halen?!
Every time I go into the neighborhood grocery or town mall, I see a young generation of suburban white boys who equate hip hop as their music of choice as well as their lifestyle influence of dress and attitude apparel. What a shame! It's not their culture. Rock... should be their rightful culture! But I feel sorry for them as they have no guitar heroes to call their own. Corporate radio and major record labels have killed that for them! Are we to expect them to embrace past guitar icons like Richie Blackmore, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Randy Rhoads as symbols of their own generation? Of course not!
Enter Jay Jesse Johnson. Even the "Triple J" name has a nice ring to it! A man who's maniacal, blazing guitar work can be heard all over his appropriately titled new CD meant to resurrect the meaning of rock guitar hero by calling it "Play That Damn Guitar"!
Now, in the history of rock n' roll, has there ever been the "perfect" rock album? Some may argue that Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon" is the perfect progressive rock album! And some may say that "Led Zeppelin IV" might be the perfect classic rock album. And, then again, some may say that Black Sabbath created the perfect heavy metal album with "Paranoid"! Here, in the year 2009, it is without question that Jay Jesse Johnson has created the perfect "heavy guitar" rock album with "Play That Damn Guitar"! The album comes complete with high intensity, high octane barn burners with ripping guitar on such cuts as "Hear No Evil", "Bad Voodoo" and "Bad Blood". Then soaring guitars prevail with such melodic sensibilities on tasty cuts like "Dream Away", "Play That Damn Guitar", "Salt Of The Earth" and "Shine On". Texas Southern style blues is visited on "Rattlesnake Stomp" and "Blues For The Devil" while sweeping, majestic guitar tones beautify the album on "Six String Angel".
In a broken down world and bad economy, we need heroes. Since music has the power to soothe the soul as well as entertain, we need guitar heroes! Jay Jesse Johnson is that new generation guitar hero! Period! And he delivers in "perfect" fashion with his golden display of lead guitar riffage on his new album! So, c'mon Triple J, go crazy... and PLAY THAT DAMN GUITAR!!!
Daniel Jacks / Geno Dezi (Raised On Rock / Axecaliber - WITR 89.7) (March 2009)
God damn, I have two previous albums with this American heavy blues cat, but it's not until now I've actually realized how damn great he is! On his last album "I've Got An Axe To Grind" most of the vocals were handled by Victory/Bad Company singer Charlie Huhn. Ok, I really love Huhn's voice, but as Johnson himself is such a great singer there's no need for help in that department. He handles all the vocals himself on the new album - selling point one. When listening back to the previous albums I now realized what has happened. He has finally done what the last album title suggested, and the new one as well for that matter. He did grind the axe and he now really does play that damn guitar, resulting in better songs and a much heavier sound - selling point two.
Vocally Jay sounds a lot like Jimmy Mack on the good old Earl Slick Band albums, which fits perfectly with his raw, rough, fat riffing a la Hendrix/Trower. Especially the track "Dream Away" gives me strong Mack-vibes. The production, by JJJ himself, is a flawless study in dynamics, fat guitars and powerful drums/bass bottom. His fellow musicians sure add their dimension to the power-trio wall of sound, too. Drummer Joe Aparo plays like there's no tomorrow - hard, heavy, yet soulful and with an outstanding groove, while bass player Steve Shore teams up perfectly with Joe, building a fat, strong foundation behind Johnson's blues shredding. There's never a dull moment in the rhythm department, and there sure ain't none in the guitar department. Despite me mentioning Hendrix and Trower earlier, JJJ sure has given this classic genre a new spin. He's got the tone and the vibe of the old masters, but like fellow guitarists Greg Koch, Joe Bonamassa and of course Stevie Ray Vaughan, he has put his own brand on it, especially on this album. The solo in the aforementioned "Dream Away" with its technical, almost shredding vibe, is a proof if one. When he then takes a long nice solo walk in the subsequent "Bad Voodoo" the goose bumps are close to exploding.
The boogie loaded title track (the phrase was actually used already on the last album) reminds me a bit of Michael Katon, but with that turbo button pressed in real hard. - Fuck me, as Chef Ramsay so eloquently would have put it, the riff of "Bad Blood" has to be one of the fattest in modern blues history! Goose bumps, again, I'm starting to look like I've got a touch of some bulbous blues-plague. He does visit the classic semi-clean Strat-loaded blues grounds, too, in "Shine On" for example, where his solo once again shines and makes you pick that imaginary guitar out of its case. While it's already unpacked, you definitely need it for the album closer "Six String Angel", a dedication to Jimi Hendrix. A cool, slow, yet fat and big blues number, like a modern "Little Wing", with Jay showing his most soulful, almost vulnerable, side of his soling skills. The solo at around 6:00 is one of the most beautiful I've heard in years.
Ok, this is a musical land that has been cultivated by many, but it's not how much you can grow or how high your plants can become, it's the quality of the crop that matters, and JJJ is sure one hell of a blues rock guitar farmer!
Janne Stark (FUZZ / SWEDEN ROCK MAG)
All too often we hear the hype about some incredibly hot guitar slinger - so we buy the CD, give it a listen and say something like, "Yeah, the cat's really great", but there's always something that just doesn't sit right.. like a groove that isn't what it could've been, or a riff that didn't quite get to the place where it was intended to go. What I'm saying here is this: no matter how great something is (with or without "the hype"), SOMETHING is missing - and repeated listenings only reinforce that fact. Recordings like Jimi's "Are You Experienced" or Beck's "Wired" or Trower's "Bridge Of Sighs" are way too few and way too far between.. you know what I mean.. those fabulous "space in time" recordings that could (and should) be regarded as "required listening" - seminal and essential - life changing. In a word: SPECIAL. In a phrase: All KILLER - NO FILLER.
Enter Jay Jesse Johnson and his "essential" release, "Play That Damn Guitar." This IS one of those recordings.. and let me tell you, this dude takes the title literally.. and very seriously. Mere words are insufficient to convey the devastating sonic impact this collection of musical art has in store for the listener. JJJ pulls it all (and I do mean ALL) together into THE complete package - morphing all conceivable musical and tonal variables into a harmonically resonating cohesive constant. Writer, player, vocalist, producer, engineer and mixer. Seasoned maturity infused with a youthful fire. Intense yet ethereal. Mind-bending chops and superhuman control. Effected, yet pure. Dead serious. Playful. Timeless, yet here and now. Totally accessible. I could go on and on. It's SPECIAL.
Every track is a musical universe unto itself. JJJ succeeds in elevating himself above his influences, yet maintains a respect and reverence for those same influences in a way that must be aurally experienced to be understood. JJJ bridges the "gap" - connecting the best musical aspects of the past into the present age.. and in doing so, provides a glimpse of the promise that the future holds. For lack of a better encapsulation, JJJ is a "time-travelling 'days of future past' electric alchemist gypsy bhodisatva," and "Play That Damn Guitar" is his sacrament.
Opening with "Inner Sanctum" - a scorching, echoed reverb-soaked even-order harmonic feedback skate on the astral plane (think "...And The Gods Made Love" meets "Ah Via Musicom") - JJJ sets the tone for the rest of the listening experience: melodic depth and emotional richness within an inventive orchestration - featuring God-like Stratified tonesmithing throughout. Each track possesses JJJ's signature "slip 'n slide" solo technique that is his trademark.. he owns it.. no one does what he does the way he does it. Period. It can't be explained with words. It must be heard. Loose and flowing yet with diamond-cut precision; sort of like the sonic version of a flaming meteor with a soft landing. It's amazing.
From Hendrixian-inflected pulsegrooves to extended bluesy excursions into Feelville to swamp boogie slide guitar mayhem to majestic ballads and beyond.. it's all here. Bassist Steve Shore and drummer Joe Aparo lock and load in a powerful, proportioned and very tasty rhythm section. From that rock-solid base of operations, JJJ bobs and weaves with four-dimensional labyrinthian soundscapes of transcendent improvisation underscored with a gifted composer's keen sense of design and structure; dynamics and movement; attack, sustain, hold and release. It's incredible. JJJ will send every guitarist who hears his killer riffage to an extended stay in the woodshed.. but there's an emotive purity and relativity to everything that even the most casual listener cannot help but being affected by it. It hits that hard.
If what I've written appears to be "too much," you're right. JJJ IS too much. "Play That Damn Guitar" is.. without a doubt.. what you've been longing to hear for a long time, and repeated listenings just keep getting better. When was the last time that happened? It's simple, really. Buy This CD. Listen To It. Only then will you understand. Only then will you know (with your ears) what I'm trying to convey (with these words). It's "required listening." It's SPECIAL.
P.S. On a less-than-happy note, JJJ's long-time musical brother and bass player/backing vocalist Steve Shore succumbed to cancer prior to the release of this CD. Loss always brings grief and a dark emotional cloud that obscures any feelings of happiness or joy. That said, we can rejoice in the knowledge that - even though Steve currently resides on another plane of existence - we can hear who he was in the fabulous musical artistry he brought to this release. Someone once said that no one is gone unless they are forgotten. I didn't know Steve, but one thing's for sure: I'll NEVER forget him. Thank you, Steve.. and thank you, JJJ, for giving us the gift of his playing.. and your friendship.. on your musical gift to the rest of us. It's appreciated more than these words can express.
Jimmy Ryan (Truth Squad) (March 2009)
Indiana-native Jay Jesse Johnson graced our cyber pages back in Issue #65 with his hard-hitting and well praised I've Got An Ax to Grind. With Play That Damn Guitar he returns with another stellar package of hard-rock blues that shows a more personalized side to his songwriting. His band still includes bassist Steve Shore (Cryer) with the new addition of drummer Joe Aparo who gets a co-write on a couple of the discs eleven tracks. Little is left of JJJ's slick AOR pop from his early '80s work with Jeff Cannata's Arc Angel of even the heavy metal of his mid-eighties Deadringer. In fact, it sounds as if triple J has returned to the early roots of classic rock and blues that first inspired him. He even dedicates the mystic story "Blues for the Devil" to Robert Johnson and the poetic, almost spellbinding riff-work of "Six String Angel" to Jimi Hendrix. (However, Stevie Ray Vaughn could easily be credited as well throughout several other tracks.) Both songs sculpt the lyrics into mesmerizing tales of passion and beauty while paying tribute to the innovative players that motivate and influence Johnson.
Going for the throat are the frantic "Dream Away" with is slashing solo and the harder "Hear No Evil", both capturing a Stevie Ray Vaughn vibe complete with Jay's gruff baritone delivery. "Bad Voodoo" carries a New Orleans buzz with a hint of Chris Cornell in lyrical style - dangerous and contemporary with the clever inclusion of the Beatles "Eleanor Rigby" in the solo. Basking in the glow of '70s muscle rock with echoes of ZZ Top boogie and Hammond-fed Allan Brothers is the glorious "Rattlesnake Stomp" and the rhythmic "Shine On". Joining the band on keys is Jim Norcross and his addition rounds out and balances what could have been an overly guitar-dominated affaire. Not to say the guitar eases up, as both house some insanely vicious fret work. The centerpiece of the record is the title track "Play That Damn Guitar" - a prolific road song with humorous, witty lyrics that fuel an addictive groove. Best line: "When I fire up my riffage and melt those blues away." The disc does contain a 'break up' song but it ain't no ballad. "Bad Blood" takes the pain of heartbreak, slams it into a hard rock grinder and sonically kicks down the door.
Todd K. Smith (The Cutting Edge) (July 2009)
Play That Damn Guitar. Jay Jesse Johnson's best effort. This CD is Jay Jesse Johnson hitting stride, and in the power stroke. You can feel it. The most exciting chapter of the JJJ experience. I pulled the headphones over my ears and descended into the "Inner Sanctum" intro, and immediately got gunned down with the opener "Hear No Evil". All the trademarks of JJJ come screaming through. The perfect set-up to what gets proven start to finish, this is the best recorded representation of this guy to date. If you've gotten into "Strange Imagination" (2005) and "I've got An Axe to Grind" (2007), be advised; YOU ARE GOING TO THE NEXT LEVEL.
"Bad Voodoo" reveals the Triple J bloodline, and it continues throughout this performance, standing strong alongside your personal greatest hard rock/blues guitar CD s -PERIOD. Ya' know, it never fails. JJJ's leads hit every mark, every nerve. He sees inside you, pulls out that piece of music you wish you would hear, re-injects you with it, and you are born again. He is still, and more than ever, smooth lightning. Ironically, the fact is that we are seeing more deeply into his musical soul than we ever have. How many times have you been able to say that about any artist?
On drums Joe Aparo is all the way rock solid, as he always is. But those in the know would agree, this is the best reunion of JJJ and Steve Shore (sonic soul brothers?). Johnson, Shore, and Aparo are a three-headed monster. Locked deep in that New England groove, on all these great songs, the synergy and connection is undeniably full-blooded and without equal. Ending with a dedication to Hendrix on "Six String Angel", Johnson should be proud. This recording has shown who he is, and where he is going.
Pray for the tour people! The Guitar Gods would really be smiling on us all if they saw fit that we stand and see Jay Jesse Johnson 'Play That Damn Guitar LIVE! In the morning our ears would be ringing, happily, again. Own this CD. You will always know right where it is.
Johnny Rampino (Scanner Music Publishing) (April 2009)
If the mission statement at Grooveyard Records of "The Guitar Is King In The Grooveyard!" doesn't give you some indication of where Jay Jesse Johnson's music might focus, then calling his third album Play That Damn Guitar should remove any lingering doubts you may have that the plank he carries with six strings may well take center stage.
With a deep, sharp and at times downright dirty blues style Triple J, as his friends call him, is a guitarist with tremendous touch and tone who manages to convey emotion through his guitar like it was the first language he learned as a child. Every riff that rages from his fret board and every solo that drips from his fingers lets you know that this is a modern day Blues master who is keeping the spirit of the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn alive and well.
Johnson first came to prominence in 1983 as the guitarist of cult melodic rockers Arc Angel who featured the vocal talents of Jeff Cannata and went on to play on most of Cannata's subsequent solo work through the 90's and 2000's. Triple J also was the guitar slinger in the minor super group DeadRinger who also featured drummer Neal Smith and bassist Dennis Dunaway from the original Alice Cooper Band alongside Blue Oyster Cult keyboard player Joe Bouchard and former Ted Nugent singer Charlie Huhn and released their only album Electrocution Of The Heart in 1989.
Releasing his first solo effort Strange Imagination in 2006 and following it up with 2008's I've Got An Ax To Grind, Johnson was now following a far earthier, bluesier sound than his previous band work and Play That Damn Guitar continues in that direction.
Kicking in with the atmospheric swirling "Inner Sanctum" before the mighty drum break and riff of "Hear No Evil" really begins the blues groove that casts it's spell through every song on the album, this is one disc that grasps your coat lapels and gives you a damn hard shake from beginning to end. Whether it's the strut of "Dream Away", the slow deliberate stomp of "Salt of the Earth" or the Stevie Ray Vaughn infused call and response of "Bad Voodoo" you are struck by the ebb and flow of Johnson's playing and his deftness of touch during the fine solos.
Vocally JJJ combines the smooth richness of Clapton with the relaxed drawl of Hendrix and the cocky confidence of David Lee Roth and his singing style sits perfectly with the music. This is never better proved than on the stunning title track. Adding a dirty and grimy swagger to his sound that evokes the mighty Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top at his strutting best, it's the strongest song on the album with an unforgettable riff, sublime solo, and an audacious groove that defies you not move to the music.
Closing track "Six String Angel", which is a tribute to Hendrix and is obviously influenced by the legend himself, never falls into the trap of mimicking the great man whilst managing to retain the feel of his playing. It shows a completely different side to Johnson's style as he and his band bring things right down with a beautifully paced slower track than elsewhere on the album. The guitar solo is a powerful and emotional statement that cements the stunning prowess that is displayed throughout Play That Damn Guitar. Whilst his Damn Guitar is the main focus of the songs, Triple J's band mates are determined not to be left in the shadows. All blues maestros need a rock solid rhythm to work off and with Steve Shore on bass, who sadly passed away not long after the album was finished, and Joe Aparo on drums, the foundations on Play That Damn Guitar are soundly built. The pair lay down the law with their accomplished performances, both matching Johnson's every twist and turn and providing the base from which he can fire off his stunning solos and lead breaks.
I don't think I have come across a more aptly titled album than Play That Damn Guitar, as it basically tells you all you need to know about one of the best heavy blues rock albums I have heard in quite some time.
I advise you to do as Grooveyard's mission statement ends: "Dig Deep And Smell The Riffage".
Steven Reid (Sea Of Tranquility) (October 2009)
If you, like this reviewer, are partial to blues/rock on the heavier side, then this label out of Rochester, New York, is for you. On this, Jay's third album, you have a dirty blues style, illustrating what tremendous touch and tone he manages to get out of his guitar, like it was the first language he learned at school. Every riff and solo he gets out makes you aware this is a modern day blues master keeping the spirit of the dearly departed alive and well. The quiet, atmosheric 'Inner Sanctum' gives a false sense of security, before the mighty drum break and riff of 'Hear No Evil' kicks in with the blues groove that sets the tone for the whole album. Vocally, Triple J, as his friends call him, combines the smoothness of a Clapton, the drawl of a Hendrix and the balls of David Lee Roth, perhaps best illustrated on the stunning title track. Combining the aforementioned with the swagger of Billy Gibbons especially on the solo,the song has an unforgettable riff and an groove that defies you to stay still. All eleven tracks are originals, a couple are dedicated to Robert Johnson - 'Blues For The Devil and Hendrix - 'Six String Angel'. JJJ doesn't fall into the trap of mimicking either artist, instead retaining the feel of their playing. The latter, indeed, shows a completely different side to Johnson's style, as the band brings the mood right down for the album's slowest track. Whilst the guitar in the title takes the main focus of the songs, special mention must go to the solid rhythm section of the late Steve Shore on bass and Joe Aparo on drums. They complement every twist and turn JJJ makes, providing a perfect foil for his stunning solos and lead breaks. I advise you to adhere to a mission statement from Grooveyard Records "The Guitar Is King In The Grooveyard!" Love it!
Clive Rawlings (Blues Matters Magazine) (May 2012)
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