Eric Johanson put the “Hammer on the Stone” on his new album, and if that tune is a nod to Jimi Hendrix, he nailed it.
Hendrix is just one of the guitar gods that come to mind when listening to Johanson’s new CD, “Below Sea Level.” Think Pat Travers, Davy Knowles and Jack White. This album is a down deep and dirty rocker. Prolific producer Luther Dickinson must have had a blast making this one.
A third-generation Louisianan, Johanson is a true-blues triple threat guitarist-singer-songwriter. Home state hero from Houma, Tab Benoit, recognized Johanson’s talent and signed him to his Whiskey Bayou Records label and cut a debut record in 2017, “Burn It Down.”
Three years later, Johanson penned 12 songs for his solo debut with Nola Blue Records, mostly each of them 3 or 4 minutes long, leaving the listener wanting more. Fortunately for me, I’ve seen Johanson stretch his songs out a bit during live revues Benoit brought to Reno and Tahoe in 2018 and 2019.
With Nola Blue Records, Johanson continues to be surrounded with greatness. North Mississippi Allstars brother Cody Dickinson plays drums and Terrence Grayson from the Victor Wainwright Band plays bass. The album was cut at the famed Zebra Ranch built by Luther and Cody’s father, Jim Dickinson. The deep-grooved song “Open Hearted Woman” is the only one to have obvious Dickinson Hill Country boot imprints.
Johanson harmonizes vocals with his guitar on the trancey “River of Oblivion” and slide show called “Down to the Bottom.”
The hard-rocking album lands smooth and gentle, concluding a slide ballad, “Love is Rebellion,” and an acoustic National country lick, “Riverbed Blues.”
There’s a rising star in the Crescent City and his name is Eric Johanson.
- Eric Johanson
- ‘Below Sea Level’
- Label: Nola Blue Records
- Release: Sept. 18, 2020
- Favorite tracks: ‘Hammer on the Stone,’ ‘Buried Above Ground’