“Below Sea Level”
Release Date September 18, 2020
Nola Blue Records
Publicity Blind Raccoon
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © August, 2020
“Below Sea Level” is Eric Johanson’s second solo release and his first on the rapidly growing Nola Blue Record label. The trio of musicians, or more fittingly said – music dynamos, that make up the band are Eric Johanson on guitar and vocals; Cody Dickinson on drums and Terrence Grayson on bass. Please don’t confuse the word dynamo with powerhouse because quite frankly, I am not a fan of so called “powerhouse trios”. Fashionably, they’re much too over the top for my taste. That said, Eric, Cody and Terrence – along with Ray Jacildo on organ on one track – pleasingly took me right to the edge.
Keeping it as real and as raw as possible, “Below Seal Level” was recorded live, in just three days, with very few overdubs. Similar to his debut release titled “Burn It Down”, all twelve of the tracks are Eric’s originals. To quote Eric,
“It’s contemporary music naturally grown from the roots of southern blues and psychedelic inspiration.”
As the disc opens with “Buried Above Ground” (which is what I’m calling the pseudo title track), absolutely zero time is wasted living up to Eric’s quote. He and Cody come right out of the gate in a toe to toe slug fest that’s harder and rougher than a twelve round Ali-Frazier battle. This smoker references Eric’s native New Orleans. If you’ve ever been there and toured the famed cemeteries you’ll immediately get the song title and album titles.
Being one who peaked during that era (no pun intended), for some of that psychedelic inspiration you need not go further than track two – “Down To The Bottom” – a track about diving into your imagination and letting go of the world. Killer mind and string bending slide guitar, profound rhythm and guiding lyrics will all accompany you on the trip.
There is no question about Eric being able to belt it out on the rockers but when it comes to really appreciating a singers voice, I’ll take a ballad every time. This track, which totally changed the band’s tempo, is titled “Changes The Universe”. On songs like this is it’s not uncommon for me to use the term flawless because this is what floats my blues boat: strong, heartfelt and soulful vocals; a tight and relaxed rhythm groove, slick blues guitar licks; and a heartbeat that only a Hammond organ can give a song. On his only appearance, Ray certainly made his presence known.
Kudos have to go out to Luther Dickinson, the disc’s producer on “Have Mercy”. His creating the perfect dark instrumentation to match the tracks dark lyrics was nothing short of masterful.
“Nowhere To Go” is surely one for the dancers…..that is if they can keep up with it. With Eric being one, Cody being another and Terrence being the third, this rocker is indeed a three alarmer.
Just like everything else seems to do, protest songs also make comebacks – and the fact that they need to is indeed a sad reality. No matter how high the wall, how strong the chains, how divided the boundary, all these things are just prisons in your mind. Eric’s take is that “Love Is Rebellion” from any kind of tyranny and love is rebellion, it’s the only way to be free. With his beautifully delivered moving lyrics and his skillful acoustic guitar work Eric totally owns this one.
Eric’s parents, must have been readers of the American poet Maya Angelou It was she who wrote “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” Showing such diversity, Eric closes out the disc with “Riverbend Blues”, a beautiful and strong solo acoustic effort.
Other tracks on this awesome album include: “Never Tomorrow”; “Hammer On The Stone”; “River Of Oblivion”; “Open Hearted Woman” and “Dose Of Forget”.
To learn more about singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire, Eric Johanson, just go to – www.ericjohanson.com. Remember, wherever you go and whoever you contact, please let them know the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient