guitar prodigy from the age of four, South Texas born Brent Johnson always knew where he wanted his playing to take him. Drinking in the very best of Blues, Jazz, Rock, Punk, Country and World Music, by the time his family moved to New Orleans in his teens, he was predestined towards a career in music.
Writing his own material, Brent formed several high-school bands, all with a lean to the Blues, then joined ‘Under The Gun’, who built a considerable following on the local live circuit in Louisiana and beyond. As admiring of the style of The Clash, Albert King, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, Albert Collins or Black Flag and Thelonius Monk, Brent’s passion for playing was immediate and intense for his audience.
By serendipity, New Orleans’ legendary ‘Braille Blues Daddy’ Bryan Lee heard Brent’s playing and immediately recognized his virtuosity, drive and dedication to his Craft and to the Blues. At 22, Brent was seconded into Bryan Lee and the Blues Power Band with whom he has recorded and toured nationally and internationally for the past ten years.
Brent credits Bryan as an ever encouraging Mentor, sharing and expanding his deep love of the Blues and playing guitar; “ playing with Bryan has really helped me open my ears. For example, Bryan always had keyboard players before I joined him – so I had to learn how to play like an organist, like a horn section – how to play rhythm like a group of instruments… instead of solely like a guitarist. I’ve learned how to swing, how to play be-bop and also how to take that aggression that I love and give it room to move – new colors to paint with”.
Through his long association with Bryan Lee, Brent has played many major Jazz and Blues Festivals around the world and had the pleasure of playing with many outstanding Blues Artists such as Buddy Guy, Lonnie Brooks, Eddie Shaw, Gatemouth Brown, Michael Burks, David Maxwell, Bruce Katz, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Howlin Wolf associate Hubert Sumlin. Some from this circle have given Brent great accolades for his abilities as a player, a fact he underplays.
In between touring with Bryan Lee, Brent went out on the road with John Perkins (drums) and Bill Blok (bass) playing Brent’s original compositions, with himself on vocals. They garnered a great response and decided to go into the recording studio, with the inclusion of Wayne Lohr on keyboards.
Brent Johnson and The Call Up release their debut album ‘ Set The World On Fire’ in ‘2014’ through the renowned Justin-Time Records out of Montreal . Owner Jim West is a longtime fan and gave Brent free rein over the material and production. Renowned musicians Sonny Landreth and Alvin Youngblood Hart guest on several tracks at Brent’s invitation, and he is looking forward to releasing and touring these original songs and feeling the reaction to his work from an audience.
“My sound is rooted in the Blues, though I don’t pretend to be a purist, and I don’t want to be” he explains, “ I write music based on my experiences and the sounds I grew up with… I never want to pretend that I had the same experiences as the old Bluesmen did – so I’m not going to go around trying to sound like them. What I do is put the emphasis on the feeling of the music, the passion, the urgency, the directness – that’s the goal”.
Brent describes himself as “always a guitar slinger… I always loved songwriters and wrote songs for myself”.
Interestingly, despite an omnivorous musical appetite and a very distinct love of Blues, Brent, when pushed , would list his four favorite songwriters as eclectic Houston guitarist Chris Whitley, Austin’s own Ian Moore,( a writer himself influenced by World, Folk and Blues music), along with British stalwarts Elvis Costello and Joe Strummer. He describes his favorite music as “raw, honest and dirty.”
As his debut album comes of the press, Brent emphasizes his commitment to keep writing his own songs –“ I want to bring something to the audience that sounds familiar but that is our own in the end”. Always demonstrating his creativity in his playing, he is excited and apprehensive about putting his own songs before the public. “I believe there are no limits – I’m going to have fun with this for a long time!”
Brent Johnson and The Call Up will be touring worldwide starting in 2014.
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