By Pati deVries.
Blues-rock guitarist Eric Johanson announces the upcoming release of his new album, The Deep and the Dirty, available via Ruf Records, on July 28th. Today, Johanson unveiled his latest video, "Don't Hold Back."
While creating The Deep and the Dirty, Eric Johanson's previous album cracked the Top 10 on the Billboard Blues chart. It was his fourth time reaching the Top 10. And for a Louisiana native who'd grown up idolizing bluesmen like Freddie King and Robert Johnson, it felt pretty good. Even so, genre success didn't discourage Johanson from reaching beyond the blues for The Deep and the Dirty's eclectic, electrifying songs.
"I've never tried to stay within one box," he says. "Blues is at the root of the different styles of music I play — hard rock, Americana, New Orleans funk, country — but I don't see the lines between genres, and I'm not following a standard form. What I find important about the blues is the rawness of it. The expression of it. The humanness of it. That makes The Deep and the Dirty a blues album: the raw self-expression."
Produced by Jesse Dayton (Supersuckers, Rob Zombie) — another roots-rock innovator who, like Johanson, uses the blues as a springboard for a bigger, broader sound — The Deep and the Dirty (whose title refers to the American South) fires twin barrels of sharp songwriting and fiery fretwork. Johanson wrote these songs during an era that found him at home, live-streaming acoustic performances and releasing two volumes of his Covered Tracks series to a quarantined world. At the earliest opportunity, Eric returned to the road, gaining a fresh appreciation for the musical chemistry generated by a well-oiled touring band. The Deep and the Dirty captures these contradictions and subtleties with songs infused with messages about embracing the current moment recorded in the studio as a band playing together live.
Bassist Eric Vogel (Big Sam's Funky Nation / Fred Wesley) and Grammy-winning drummer Terence Higgins (Ani DiFranco / Warren Haynes / Tab Benoit) joined him in the studio, recording 12 songs in two days. "When you're playing this kind of music together, you create moments that can't be replicated if you're recording each part separately," Johanson explains. "I don't write my guitar solos beforehand or record them separately, either. I need to interact with the band to take the solo somewhere special, so we need to record live. Even if there's a mistake or two, it feels like an honest representation of the moment."
Johanson has been capturing moments for years. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, he received his first guitar at five and became a self-taught prodigy. By his teens, he was a staple at regional blues gigs, often joining much older musicians on stage from New Orleans to Memphis' Beale Street. Meanwhile, his tastes expanded to include rock acts like Tool, Soundgarden, and Nine Inch Nails, influences which surfaced when Johanson began writing his own songs and experimenting with everything from rock & roll to beat-driven electronic music. Living in New Zealand for four years broadened his horizons even further. And by the time Johanson resettled in New Orleans during the 2010s, he'd developed a style of music that unapologetically encompassed all his influences. Solo albums like 2017's Burn It Down introduced that sound to a larger audience, while sideman work for acts like Cyril Neville (The Neville Brothers) kept his guitar chops sharp.
"Music is a way for me to try and make sense of my world and myself," he says. "The Deep and the Dirty is an evolution of what I've done before — a little more in your face, up-tempo, and rocking. I came out of the slow years with much energy, wanting to blast off."
May 27 New Orleans, LA Maple Leaf
Jun 9 Norwood, MA Magic Room
Jun 10 Old Town, ME Wings & Wheels
Jun 13 Laconia, NH Tower Hill Tavern
Jun 14 Plymouth, NH* The Flying Monkey
Jun 15 Portland, ME One Longfellow Square
Jun 16 Beverly, MA* The Cabot
Jun 17 Syracuse, NY Funk ‘n Waffles
Jun 18 Arkville, NY The Ark Bowl & BBQ
Jun 20 Amagansett, NY* The Stephen Talkhouse
Jun 21 Bridgeport, CT Bijou Theatre
Jun 22 Hartford, CT* Infinity Hall Hartford
Jun 27 Columbus, OH The King of Clubs
Jun 28 Kalamazoo, MI * Bell’s Brewery
Jun 30 Madison, WI* Barrymore Theatre
Jul 1 Aurora, IL The Venue
Jul 15 Austin, TX* Mohawk Austin
Jul 16 Houston, TX* The Heights Theatre
Jul 19 Oklahoma City, OK* Tower Theatre
Jul 20 Wichita, KS TempleLive at Scottish Rite Center
Jul 21 Fort Smith, AR* Temple Live
Jul 30 Fort Wayne, IND Performance Pavilion at Sweetwater
*supporting Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton