Frank Zappa said this: “The disgusting stink of a too-loud electric guitar…now that’s my idea of a good time.” I submit that no other musical instrument has caused as many arguments as the electric guitar. Fans were arguing with each other about who were the best rock guitarists in pop music way before Rolling Stone ever printed its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. The most hard-core guitar fans know their trivia, too, right down to amplifiers, the makes and gauges of strings, the pickups, electronics, and guitars. Naturally, such discussions have moved online to forums like “Rig Talk.”
There are some shredders who guard such information, but there are other players such as Eric Johnson who post their equipment lists and effects and amp manufacturers online for all to see. Eric Johnson is an Austin guitarist, proficient on acoustic and electric. “Cliffs of Dover” was his “Crossroads,” his “Eruption.” Johnson won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for that song in 1991. That song elevated his cult status to almost the same altitude as Eric Clapton or Eddie Van Halen. “Cliffs of Dover” became a fret-board migraine for guitar geeks to puzzle out and then post themselves on YouTube, as if it were a rockers’ rite of passage.
Johnson is a jazzy roots-rock guitarist with a combination of licks and tone that sounds more as if it’s from a viola than a Stratocaster. His execution is as clean as any country picker’s, and country pickers are the cleanest of them all. Johnson was neglected by the editors at Rolling Stone and did not make their Top 100 — there are guitarists on that list who couldn’t play Johnson’s stuff even if they got private lessons from the man himself.
Andy McKee and Peppino D’Agostino also perform.
ERIC JOHNSON: 4th&B, Saturday, January 22, 7 p.m. 619-231-4343. $39 to $59.