The Legend of Vernon McAlister, Richard Leo Johnsons newest recording on Cuneiform, is an astonishing and magical release a sort of acoustic guitar equivalent to the classic Lewis Carroll novel, Alice in Wonderland. Early in the 21st C., Johnsons neighbor in Savannah, GA introduced him to a mildewed National Duolian steel-bodied guitar, dating from the early 1930s. Also called a resonator guitar because its uniquely shaped, steel body self-amplified or resonated sound, the Duolian was a mass-produced, inexpensive, and road-worthy instrument popular among blues, jazz, Hawaiian musicians who worked roadside taverns in the Depression years. Previously, Johnson had used a variety of finely-made, modern guitars most notably an 18-string, custom made, double-necked McCullum to express his fleet-fingered, idiosyncratic and highly innovative style. But as soon as he heard the Duolian, and discovered the name Vernon McAlister crudely scratched into its side, Johnson tumbled deep inside the resonators web, just as Alice had fallen down the rabbit hole. The Legend of Vernon McAlister was born, resulting in an all-instrumental CD that can serve as soundtrack or aural history to a written tale (readable on www.vernonmcalister.com). It is perhaps the best and most certainly the most imaginative project that this highly imaginative guitarist has ever done.
Richard Leo Johnson is one of the most innovative and inspired acoustic guitarists on the current American music scene. Amazon.coms editors called Johnson perhaps the next in a short line of guitar greats a line that includes [Michael] Hedges, Derek Bailey, Pat Metheny, Sonny Sharrock, and a few others, while Playboy touted him as the most innovative guitarist since Jim Hendrix.
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Added by badpageturn on May 16, 2006