Sweet Sassafras
Guitar World|November 2020
Sweet Sassafras
ERIC JOHNSON ON HIS GENTLE NEW ALBUM, EJ II, HIS NEW FENDER “VIRGINIA” SASSAFRAS STRAT AND SEARCHING FOR THE STILL POINT
James Rotondi

ERIC JOHNSON HAS been thinking a lot lately. Thinking about the creative and technical choices he’s made; thinking about what makes a great guitar valuable in the first place; and how we can be more friendly to ourselves as players and people. The result of that introspection is the gentle, acoustic guitar- and piano-driven EJ II, which finds one of the world’s acknowledged Zen masters of jazz-rock tone and technique stepping back from the kind of blinding fuzz-tone quintuplet runs and post-fusion high-wire shredding of classics like “Cliffs of Dover” and “Western Flier,” or more recent throwdowns like the arpeggio-driven “Stratagem” [from 2017’s Collage] and the Meters-meets-Mahavishnu fatback of “Fatdaddy” [from 2010’s excellent Up Close].

Instead, EJ II is the second chapter in the fingerstyle acoustic, piano and songsmith narrative Johnson started on 2016’s EJ. Like that album — which featured solo covers of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” and “Scarborough Fair” — EJ II features Eric’s own spiritually inquisitive folk-jazz songs alongside a small clutch of acoustic-driven classics, notably the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and English folk hero Bert Jansch’s DADGAD-tuning vehicle “Black Waterside” (famously pillaged by Jimmy Page on Zep’s “Black Mountain Side”).

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November 2020