Eric Johnson Bloom

It’s been nine years since Eric Johnson’s last studio release but one listen to Bloom turns it to a heartbeat. Perfectionists are funny that way. His second release for Steve Vai’s label, Johnson was originally heralded as a new guitar god with the debut of Tones in 1986. Far from prolific, Johnson nonetheless delivers consistently to fans of his uniquely tonal hybrid style of Texas-bred guitar worship. Never the million-miles-an-hour school of playing, Johnson chooses his notes wisely, anchoring his sound on the lush and lyrical, his guitar delivering the lion’s share of each melody if not also the vocal parts. Sixteen songs are divided into three movements, arranged by common sounds and moods. Johnson is not afraid to use his real vocals across six tracks, notably "Your Sweet Eyes” (backed by Shawn Colvin). His radio-ready vocals are surprisingly sweet-sounding — somewhat off-potting to the died-in-the-wool guitar aficionado, yet they offer added intensity to the fluid, soaring lines of his mind-numbing guitar work. Highlights include the country-picking duet "Tribute to Jerry Reed,” featuring fellow FN alumnus Adrian Legg. "Magnetized” cruises a mellow Steely Dan route while his fresh take on Dylan’s "My Back Pages” offers eye-opening reinvention. "Summer Jam,” more typically, provides axe-god-intenders with the perfect mantra for the season. (Favored Nations)