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Who Knew Charlie Shoe? by Richard Leo Johnson and Gregg Bendian

Guitar hero Richard Leo Johnson and Mahavishnu Project drummer/percussionist Greg Bendian create some magic via their use of cheap guitars and junky old instruments. This extraordinary outing signifies the artists’ inaugural collaboration. Johnson continues with his deep-rooted investigation of Americana witnessed during his previous solo effort titled after an obscure and deceased guitarist, Vernon McAlister. Here, the twosome intersperse field recordings consisting of a train rolling through town, barking dogs and snippets of rural radio broadcasts to engender the folksy, down home spirit. They firm down the mystique via an interweaving caricature of Charlie Shoe with an organic vibe and cleverly articulated blending of instruments.

Johnson’s endearing slide phrasings on "Shack in the Back," is performed on a guitar that casts trebly overtones and perhaps, well-worn strings. And with Bendian’s use of shaker and scraping implements they pronounce an antiquated sound with an up-tempo, and modernist-like perspective. The piece titled "Superman," is driven by the duo’s forward-moving impetus, where the guitarist tones matters down during the bridge. Then Bendian counters with a rhythmic groove devised with wooden blocks of some sort. More importantly, the instrumentalists engage in numerous movements that highlight their improvisational faculties within a quasi, down-home slice of roots music, coupled with mood-evoking attributes. They conjure up a vivid flavor of early American southern music while tossing a couple of unanticipated curveballs into the mix.

Ornamented with a few shrewdly-placed studio processing manipulations, the duo’s penchant for wrapping a folksy storyline around the music, imparts a serious-minded aura. Yet at the end of the day, the program hits you with a good-timey sensation. Check out the duo’s near-flawless musicianship and vivid personification of the likeable plot. A top pick for 2007....

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Richard Leo Johnson and Gregg Bendian
  • CD Title: Who Knew Charlie Shoe?
  • Genre: Folk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Cuneiform Records
  • Rating: Five Stars
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