Did you get a chance to catch the announcement of the new artists added to the Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea II cruise? You can find out everything you need to know about this amazing upcoming musical spectacular here: http://www.bluesaliveatsea.com/
Or scroll down below to read the bios of Johnny A., Monophonics, and Eric Gales!
Lots of folks throw around the phrase “let the music do the talking,” but only a few have the fortitude to really do it – to just go out there and play, shunning flash, shrugging off image and reeling in the listener on the strength of the songs alone.
Johnny A. is that kind of performer. For the better part of three decades, the Massachusetts-based guitarist and bandleader has proven himself capable of generating heat at venues from working-class bars to international amphitheaters – and every sort of venue in between. And when the house lights are turned up, he’s just as adept at captivating serious students of the six-string with a virtuosity that earned him the rare honor of having his name placed on a signature Gibson® guitar.
“I want to create instrumental music and deliver it like a vocalist,” he says “You can be a great player, on any instrument, and people will take notice for a while…but what people really remember is someone who brings them a great melody.”
On Driven, his fourth outing as a solo performer – which is due for release this June — Johnny serves up plenty of that, in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins and Ben and Jerry’s combined. From the Motown-inflected party-starter “C’Mon, C’mon” to the introspective “A Mask You Wear” (a song that’s flecked with subtle slide playing redolent of George Harrison’s vintage work), he paints vivid landscapes, scenes that create an emotional connection without words.
Nowhere is that more evident than on the album’s sole cover, a languid take on the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody,” which fuses the original’s mournful poignancy with a gentle jazziness – not to mention an underlying swing that’s all the more impressive when you consider that it, like the rest of Driven, is the product of a one-man band.
While Johnny has been a bandleader for most of his career, he opted to work alone on this outing. That meant playing all the album’s instruments himself, but it also meant producing and engineering the songs – which he recorded in a studio that he invested plenty of blood, sweat and tears in building.
“It was different, but it wasn’t all that difficult,” he says of going the solo route on this outing. “I started out as a drummer, so I knew what I was doing there, and I just built the songs on my own. I just visualized myself as the band – I could see myself playing everything, and doing it all at once.”
That take-no-prisoners attitude has been ingrained in Johnny A. since he first set foot on a stage, whether as leader of locally-acclaimed Boston acts like Hearts on Fire or in the company of acclaimed artists like J. Geils frontman Peter Wolf – whose band he anchored for more than seven years. It fully came to the fore in 1999, when he independently issued his first solo album, Sometime Tuesday Morning – a disc that eventually went on to sell 100,000 copies and spawn “Oh Yeah,” a single that topped the AAA charts (a feat no instrumental song had accomplished in more than a decade).
“When I was in my early bands, I sang, but when I was with [Peter Wolf], I came down with a really bad bronchial infection and never recovered my voice completely,” he says. “I made a conscious decision at that point to focus on instrumental music. I re-evaluated how I played, redefined my approach completely.”
That new approach won plenty of accolades from outlets like the Boston Phoenix, which dubbed him “a singular presence on the Boston rock and pop scene, winding jazz, blues, popular tunes, rock, and flourishes of psychedelic improvisation into a tight, passionate ball.” The success of Sometime Tuesday Morning led to a second release, Get Inside, which brought forth a radio hit in the form of the title track – and drew the folks at Gibson®, who approached Johnny to collaborate on a custom guitar, the second best selling signature model in the company’s illustrious line of instruments.
Ever the restless spirit, Johnny A. continues to glide across genres effortlessly, exploring elements of jazz, soul and even a bit of Chet Atkins-styled country on his instructional DVD Taste, Tone, Space, which was released in 2006.
That stylistic fluidity got front and center placement on Johnny’s 2010 release, the live CD-DVD package One November Night, which captures just such a riveting evening for posterity and proves that , in the words of Premiere Guitar Magazine, “ Johnny A.’s magic crosses over because, like [Bill] Frisell, he doesn’t just play guitar – he plays music.” That year he earned a Blues Artist of the Year award at 2010’s Boston Music Awards.
The journeying continues on the appropriately-titled Driven, a veritable sonic travelogue that takes the listener from the mists of the hypnotic opener “Ghost” through the rough-hewn terrain of “The Arizona Man,” before fading out in the mysteriously lovely sepia tones of “Gone (Like a Sunset).”
“My goal was to make a really lyrical album that would stay with people, not an album that would make people think ‘wow, that guy’s a great guitarist,’” he says. “I’m not interested in blowing someone’s head off with my playing, or showing how I can shred. With my favorite guitarists, I always tried to put my finger on how I could pick them out of a crowd. You can have all the chops in the world and be voiceless – I always want to have a voice.”
“One of the best live soul bands I have ever seen!” – Al Bell (Record producer, songwriter, executive, and co-owner of legendary Stax Records)
Raised amid the rich musical culture and history of the San Francisco Bay Area, Monophonics proudly carry the torch through the generations into today’s musical landscape. Holding on to tradition, but by no means purists of any kind, they play their own brand of music known as “Psychedelic Soul.”
The 2012 release of Monophonics last album In Your Brain saw the band pulling influences from such acts as early Funkadelic, Sly and The Family Stone and the The Temptation’s Norman Whitfield produced records. With the new album, Sound of Sinning (out now on Transistor Sound), the band has grown in all areas of record making and felt a need to explore other important influences. While the group has come to cherish these inspirations, with Sound of Sinning they started venturing beyond, to the groups that were inspiring those soul acts to embrace the psychedelic sound of the 60’s and 70’s. Bands such as The Zombies, The Beatles, Beach Boys and Pink Floyd. Even with the experimentation of new musical territory, they display the sound that people know and love about Monophonics. Touching on Northern soul, doo-wop, rock and roll, Psych pop, and cinematic music, Monophonics show off their diversity while remaining true to their roots. Overall it’s heartfelt music and old school vibes, without losing sight of the present. This is music steeped in that timeless feeling when people could write and produce songs that you could listen to over and over again. Sound of Sinning was produced by Kelly Finnigan & Ian McDonald and recorded on an old Tascam eight-track 1/4” tape machine at Transistor Sound Studios in San Rafael, CA.
Monophonics is Austin Bohlman (Drums), Myles O’Mahony (Bass/Background Vocals), Ian McDonald (Guitar/Background Vocals), Ryan Scott (Trumpet/Back- ground Vocals/Percussion) & Kelly Finnigan (Keys/Lead Vocals) along with a rotating 2nd horn usually filled by Nadav Nirenberg (Trombone) from Ikebe Shakedown and Breakdown Brass.
Eric Gales grew up in a musical family with four brothers, two of them who learned to play the guitar upside down and left handed in the same fashion that Eric does. Eric’s brother Eugene Gales who played bass in the Eric Gales Band and his brother Little Jimmy King who had a thriving career as a blues artist before his untimely death. Eric released his first record at Age 16 for Elektra records to an amazing response from the media and music fans around the globe. Guitar World Magazine’s Reader’s Poll named Eric as “Best New Talent,” in 1991. After recording a second record for Elektra, all three brothers teamed up for The Gales Bros. “Left Hand Brand” which was recorded for the House of Blues label in 1996.
Through the years, it would not be unusual to look out in the audience and see artists like Carlos Santana, Eric Johnson, Keith Richards, B. B. King, and Eric Clapton, looking on with interest as Eric took his God-given talent and worked crowd after crowd into a frenzy. The new Millennium presented new opportunities for Eric and he was signed to a deal with Nightbird Records which was affiliated with the Hendrix family and distributed through MCA/Universal. Under this deal, Eric recorded the critically acclaimed record “That’s What I Am” in 2001 and hit the road, mesmerizing fans around the world with his uncanny connection to his guitar. In 2006 Eric recorded the critically acclaimed CD “Crystal Vision” for Shrapnel Records and set the stage for his incredible Blues Bureau Division follow-up, “The Psychedelic Underground.” in 2007. In 2010 Eric hit a new stride altogether with the incredibly successful album “Relentless”. In 2013 Eric, dUg Pinnick (King’s X) and Thomas Pridgen (formerly of the Mars Volta) released the first critically acclaimed record “PGP” on Magna Carta Records. The same year Eric released his first instrumental album “Ghost Notes” under the new banner “The Eric Gales Trio”.
As both an African-American left-handed guitarist of extraordinary ability and an expressive vocalist, it is natural for people to compare Eric to Hendrix but Eric has developed a unique hybrid blues/rock sound that also draws upon influences as diverse as Albert King and Eric Johnson. A unique amalgam of styles, Eric Gales stands head and shoulders among other guitarists in his genre.