On Eric Johnson's eagerly awaited upcoming album, Up Close (his first studio effort since 2005's Bloom), the guitar legend expands and deepens his signature style and sound. Yet, at the same time, the noted perfectionist tells MusicRadar, "I really didn't get all that caught up in the nitpicky aspects of recording that I used to. I let things happen and was very open to spontaneity, way more than ever before.
"I think that's why I decided to call the record Up Close. I feel like I took some barriers down between myself and the music-making process. And hopefully, the audience will feel a more direct connection to what I'm doing, as well. That was the idea, anyway."
Johnson recorded Up Close over a period of several years, working with co-producer and engineer Richard Mullen. Veteran producer Andy Johns mixed the album and, according to Johnson, "He did a tremendous job. Andy can really hear what a record should sound like - the total picture."
Although Johnson worked with a core of musicians he's utilized in the past - C Roscoe Beck on bass, along with drummers Tommy Taylor and Barry “Frosty” Smith - various guest stars make notable appearances, among them Jonny Lang, Steve Miller and Jimmie Vaughan.
“When the others artists came in, that's when things started to feel very free," says Johnson. "I wanted to create an environment where we could just see what would happen. I’m really glad I did. The record sounds very in the moment."
That is is. Having heard an advance preview of Up Close, MusicRadar can confidently rank this stunning work right up there alongside Johnson's multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning Ah Via Musicom. Guitar fans - prepare to be dazzled.
Up Close will be released on 7 December. On the following pages, MusicRadar presents our initial impressions of each song, along with an exclusive walkthrough of the selections by Eric Johnson.