Johnny A. Get Inside

There's an ocean of guitarists out there and in order to rise to the top an axe wielder needs to either have big teeth or undeniable style. Johnny A., former sideman to Peter Wolf and others, fits into the latter category, filling out his sophomore instrumental album with a smooth cocktail of guitar geography rather than beefcake riffs through the latest distortion unit. Whereas this kind of album can often become a tiresome walk through one clichéd take on a genre after another, Johnny A. feels little need to impress us with the number of styles he can rip off. Instead Get Inside impresses with his composition skills, and they are every bit as tasty as his finger pickin'. Treating each song as several movements, Johnny varies the tempos and grooves and alters his own tone and playing to form a song journey — more of a jazz or classical approach than rock and blues, and one that works well here. The main problem is that his band never seems to rise to the challenge. Songs like "I Had to Laugh,” "Sing Singin'" and the cover of "The Wind Cries Mary" scream for more chutzpah from the band but instead we get a simple time-keeping machine. (Favored Nations)