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Poetry of Appliance

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Album Review

Richard Leo Johnson's three previous releases found the acoustic guitarist in predominantly solo settings, occasionally augmented by percussionists and other guest musicians. 2004's Poetry of Appliance, his first release for the Cuneiform label, sets the Arkansas native in front of his first stable group, theremin player and violinist Ricardo Ochoa and electronics expert Andrew Ripley. The space age atmospherics of Ochoa and Ripley never overshadow Johnson's playing; indeed, Ochoa's theremin meshes perfectly with Johnson's guitars on the simply lovely "Her to Hymn," and Ripley's almost dub-like waves of sound are a perfect counterpoint to Johnson's overdubbed guitars on the driving "Glide Path." Playing 6-, 12-, and 18-string guitars (the last a double-neck 6- and 12-string that Johnson has tuned to a peculiar scale), Johnson takes his various influences — mostly Leo Kottke and John Fahey's playful disregard for acoustic convention and John McLaughlin's wide-ranging, cross-genre expressiveness — and distills them into a uniquely personal sound that's rooted in folk and the more experimental end of new age music but doesn't quite belong in either category. Difficult to categorize, then, but marvelous to hear.


Born: 1957 in Arkansas

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Richard Leo Johnson is a self-taught guitarist whose unorthodox acoustic style is reminiscent of the late Michael Hedges. While he is often placed in the new age camp, his sonic and rhythmic whirlwinds are often far more intense than that term implies. He claims Leo Kottke, John McLaughlin, and Pete Townshend as influences. Some will also detect strong hints of Larry Coryell, Ralph Towner, and Pat Metheny. Born and raised in Arkansas and residing in Georgia, Johnson was quite successful as an architectural...
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Poetry of Appliance, The Richard Leo Johnson Trio
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