Living Blues Magazine has a great review of Rhythmland. Click here to read it.
Slide guitar master Johnson leads us on a breathless tour of the many nooks and crannies in the land of rhythm. His Mississippi Ramblers—Tim Metz on drums, Jonathan Stoyanoff on bass, Craig Long (who also produced the album with Johnson) on keyboards and background vocals—explore all forms of music on Rhythmland from Latin rhythms, folk and blues to roots music and jazz.
Johnson and the Mississippi Ramblers choogle along raucously on Revolution, an anthemic rocker that urgently exclaims the need to stand together as one as we march together in revolution to change the world. The rhythm of the tune matches the titleso well that you pick up your feet in order not to get left behind. Johnson’s take on Son House’s Walkin’ Blues opens with a chicken-picked riff before Johnson launches off on a propulsive dobro riff that moves the song at a frenetic pace, so that it’s almost a “runnin’ blues.” Timbale combines a rhumba beat with harmonic slides, creating a sound that sways and swoons at the same time; the closing measures of the song recall Santana’s early songs. Faith is a soulful ballad in the vein of Ry Cooder and Aaron Neville; a haunting organ underlies Johnson’s vocals and his shimmering slide as the singer defi- antly but quietly proclaims, “You can’t take my faith away from me.” Barrelhouse piano and New Orleans’ jazz rhythms drive us down Fillmore Street; Long’s jumping piano solo on the song’s extended bridge carries us into Johnson’s playful slide work. This jaunty stroll down Fillmore Street echoes the work of Jim Croce and Dr. John. That Way No More carries a country feel, while High Heel Shoes playfully blends jump blues and rock ’n’ roll. High Heel Shoes brightly transports us from the blues of daily life to the joys we can find in the little things in our lives.
Rhythmland is never a dull journey, continually shedding light on the musical strains echoing from hidden rhythmic cor- ners. It’s no mistake that almost every song focuses on movement and the ways we’re transported from one place to another on this walk of musical faith toward a revolution fueled by rhythm.
—Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
Thanks to Greg "Bluesdog" Szalony at Blues Blast Magazine for his awesome review of Rhythmland. Read the review here: Here is an excerpt:
Dennis and associates are surely destined for bigger and better things. His slide guitar is all over the place in a crazy gob of wonderfulness. It’s not all high energy, the guys can get slow and sentimental with the best of them when needed. This is another case of creating a lot of sound with just a basic band set up. The keyboards color things up while the rhythm section of drummer Tim Metz and bassist Jonathan Stoyanoff are there at every twist and turn. This guy is up there in the pantheon of outstanding purveyors of the slide guitar tradition. No museum piece this, the bands creativity breathes life into the music. You need this music.
David McGee of Deep Roots Magazine provided this great review of Rhythmland.
If you’re looking to get down and rocking, Dennis Johnson & The Mississippi Ramblers’ Rhythmland might be just what the doctor ordered. On the other hand, if you’re looking to feed your soul as well as your body, Dennis Johnson & The Mississippi Ramblers’ Rhythmland might be just what the doctor ordered. A rollin’ and tumblin’ workout on Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues” kicks off the album on a rousing note, propelled as it is by Johnson’s muscular slide work, the band’s right-there support and a gritty Johnson vocal. Johnson is invoked by name later, on the album’s penultimate track, “Southbound Train,” a melancholy reflection on both the loss of blues giants over time but the music’s persistence as a life force; it’s appropriate Johnson should follow this with the heated “Revolution,” a chronicle of an earlier generation taking to the streets in protest of authoritarian policies, which sounds right on time for the current era. In between the start and the close of the album Johnson and his ace band (Tim Metz on drums, Jonathan Stoyanoff on bass, Craig Long on keyboards and background vocals) offer a feisty “Timbale”; a raucous blues workout on “High Heel Shoes,” concerning a certain fashion essential that makes a certain gal the life of the party; and a honky-tonkin’-styled homage to “Fillmore Street.” But there’s also a somber, sober cry of the heart in the stark vocal-and-guitar howl, “That Way No More,” emerging from the depths of a shattered love affair; a cool, bluesy “My Love Is Here for You,” terms of endearment made richer by Long’s tasty keyboard solo followed by Johnson’s understated slide solo; and most profoundly, “Faith,” austere and hymn-like with a rich, deeply felt Johnson vocal conveying the uplifting message of persistence in the face of dispiriting events, personal and otherwise: “You can feel it in a waterfall spray,” Johnson sings, “you can feel it in the wind on your face/you can feel it in the love someone gives/you can feel it if you let yourself live.” Minus these latter songs, Rhythmland is still a superb album; with them, we can talk about it being a great album, and certainly Dennis Johnson’s finest hour.
The band recently filmed footage of its live performance at The Palms Playhouse. Pro Shot video coming soon!
New review of Rhythmland from Mick Rainsford of BLUES IN BRITAIN:
Bay Area slide guitarist, Dennis Johnson, demonstrates his command of the slide guitar combining rhythm and slide phrases fuelled by his mastery of tone and phrasing.
Backed by The Mississippi Ramblers, whose expertise and authenticity in a plethora of blues and roots related styles only serves to enhance Johnson’s musical blueprint, Johnson delivers a fine set in his natural and totally unpretentious vocal style.
Nine of the ten featured numbers are self written – the only cover being that old war-horse ‘Walkin Blues’, which in Johnson’s hands becomes a frantic North Mississippi Hill Country anthem with nods towards RL Burnside and Kenny Brown – a formula that is repeated on ‘Timbale’ wherehis slide moans and wails permeated with a Latin edge.
‘Faith’ is enhanced by soulful keyboards permeating it with a touch of Steve Winwood – Tampa Red comes to mind on ‘Fillmore Street’ with it’s rollicking piano – whilst there are shades of Johnny Cash on the country ballad ‘Valley Of Love’.
Add in the Stones inflected ‘Revolution’ – the melancholy Dylanesque ‘Southbound Train’, and the cakewalking ‘My Love Is Here For You’ that is permeated with the spirit of Leon Redbone, and you have a set that will appeal across the blues and roots divide.
Phenomenal review for Rhythmland from Jerome Clark of RAMBLES MAGAZINE.
Without particularly sounding like him, Dennis Johnson inevitably calls Ry Cooder to mind, especially the Cooder of the classic 1970s Reprise recordings. Which is to say Johnson, who is based in the Bay Area, is an unusually skilled, innovative electric and acoustic guitarist eloquent in the language of American roots forms: blues, folk, jazz and gospel.
... Johnson's approach is to focus on one style but to let the influences of others shade his arrangements. He does this with an impressive three-piece band that supports and elevates his musical vision which, for all its various sources, is very much of a piece. In fact, when I first heard Rhythmland, I thought, "What a fine blues album." That is likely to be your thought on initial, passing exposure. With each subsequent listening, though, I was taken aback to hear other sounds, too, different from cut to cut. You can definitely say that Johnson's songs don't all feel the same.
Besides their variety, they're well crafted and melodic, with capably crafted lyrics on a range of subjects. If you can make a love song interesting -- not many can -- "Valley of Love," undergirded by Johnson's masterly slide, is certainly that. ...
As I've remarked on occasion, among the many pleasures of being a music writer is the opportunity one gets to hear exceptional performers of whom otherwise would not have heard. Johnson, who is one of those, ought to be better known, and I hope that Rhythmland delivers his name throughout the land.
Here is a fantastic review of Rhythmland from Eric Schuurmans of ROOTSTIME MAGAZINE: This review is from Belgium and in Dutch so get your google translator ready. :)
Dennis opens with the Son House classic Walkin 'Blues, which he puts in his own robe. Metz & Stoyanoff are hands down and measured with tight lines. "Timbale" is a song with Latin influences in which Dennis demonstrates his qualities as a slide guitarist again. Then there is the beautiful ballad "Faith," the guitar boogie "Fillmore Street" (with a swinging Craig Long behind the piano) and a handsome acoustic folk song "That Way No More." In "Valley Of Love" you are on Mississippi's delta and impressed in the "High Heel Shoes" rocker ...
Dennis Johnson rightly deserves the name of master slide guitarist. ... Rhythmland is an album that belongs at the top with its variety of tones and rhythms. It will undoubtedly appeal to every roots lover!
Great review of Rhythmland from Chris Spector of THE MIDWEST REVIEW:
It's too hard not to call this guy a master slide guitar slinger. Adding a vocal sense of humor and sprightliness to his arena, Johnson makes such smoking music that if he doesn't close you right out of the box, there's something wrong with you. This is the sound of the back porch when it's on fire and there's no way to put it out. If you're one of those who always wondered what the hullabaloo about slide guitar was, this ain't no cultural artifact, this is the answer to all your questions. A winner throughout.
San Francisco Bay Area based slide virtuoso Dennis Johnson [and] The Mississippi Ramblers with Tim Metz (drums), Jonathan Stoyanoff (bass) and Craig Long (co- producer / keyboard) explore the roots of blues, Americana, rock and folk, and even make trips to the Latin music scene. With his inspirational vocals, the opening song 'Walkin Blues' is immediately a snap in size. The tight backing and Dennis' guitar follow the rhythmic initia of the blues rocktunes. In Latin cascara influenced Timbale, his guitar is at a very high level. The ballad 'Faith' is a wonderful poetry, and then the swinging piano and guitar boogie 'Fillmore Street' must rock the revue. The acoustic 'That Way No More' claims some folk arrangements and flows right into the Mississippi Delta composition of 'Valley Of Love'. Back to the Delta and the sultry porch of a juke joint for 'My Love Is Here For You'. After the heavenly Southbound Train, Johnson again draws all the registries open in the closing 'Revolution'.
The diversity in the album 'Rhythmland' is again of a very high level! (4.5)
Rhythmland receives a stellar review from Bill Wilson of REFLECTIONS IN BLUE. Here is an excerpt:
... now and then an album surfaces that lives up to the hype. Dennis Johnson's Rhythmland is one of those pieces that surpasses expectations.
...Dennis Johnson has mastered his instrument, understands the dynamics of the music and has a voice that is incredibly well-suited to the style. Add Tim Metz on drums, Jonathan Stoyanoff on bass and Craig Long on Keyboards and backing vocals, and you have a delightful combo. I love the understated quality throughout the disc. The music takes precedence over everything else. While each band member has the opportunity to shine, here is no conflicting of egos or showboating. Rarely do I find such perfect symmetry in an album anymore. With each passing through the tunes on this disc, I am drawn farther and farther into the intricate rhythms and tales of real-life situations. With the exception of "Walkin' Blues," all tunes on the album were composed by Johnson. Nuff said...Rhythmland is a modern masterpiece done in a style that blends traditional and contemporary styles to get the message across...and it is done with power and an incredible degree of passion.
Great review from BEN VEE BLUES.
Guitars have been widely available in America since back in 1894 when Sears & Roebuck began to sell them in their catalogs. For $4 to $26 dollars, you could live on a remote ranch in Wyoming or in a shotgun shack in the Mississippi delta, and Sears would mail you an instrument to while the nights…and the blues away. Certainly the most famous practitioner of the blues on guitar back in the early days of recorded music was Robert Johnson. Playing throughout the twenties in the deep American south and finally recording in the mid 1930’s, he was an innovator on the guitar blending rhythm and slide phrases that are still marveled at by the likes of Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy.
Today, we also have blues innovators on the guitar and one of them is Dennis Johnson from San Francisco. The sounds he produces playing slide are a joy to listen to. And on his third studio album, Rhythmland, he continues to explore new and interesting ways to deliver the blues. The first cut of the album, Walkin Blues, is his interpretation of a classic blues tune that was first recorded by Son House and then adapted by Robert Johnson. Dennis has the perfect voice for this song and uses a 12 string dobro with a tone that leaps out at you as it begins….it is simply bad ass upbeat contemporary blues based on a song that is almost 90 years old!!!
Accompanied by his band the Mississippi Ramblers that consists of Tim Metz (drums), Jonathan Stoyanoff (bass) and Craig Long (keyboards and backing vocals), Dennis delivers a number of other great songs (all originals) that will make my DJ playlists and be featured on my 24 hour blues stream, Ben Vee Roadhouse Blues. I particularly enjoyed Valley of Love for the slide work and High Heel Shoes and Fillmore Street are great upbeat dancin’ blues tunes. The recreation of the sounds of a moving train on an acoustic guitar are just part of delightful song, Southbound Train, that always features some nice keyboard work. The most interesting cut was Timbale featuring a latin cascara beat and some more innovative slide work that I just know my blues listeners and readers will love.
Blues folks all owe a debt to Sears & Roebuck for the innovation of the “home shopping” catalog way back in the day and our grateful thanks to blues slide guitar innovators like Dennis Johnson for his continuing and entertaining pursuit of the best possible contemporary blues while never losing sight of the debt we owe to the early blues men and women. Download and listen to this CD……you will enjoy it!
The band returned to Dennis' hometown for a rockin show. Thanks to everyone who came out. The crowd was awesome!
Dennis Johnson announces a September 15 release date for Rhythmland, his latest CD on the Root Tone Records label. The band will celebrate the new album with a special CD release party show on September 15 at the Guild Theater in Sacramento. Read the press release here.
Purchase tickets for the CD Release show at Guild Theater here
Thanks to everyone who came out for a rockin night at Club Car in Auburn. An awesome audience that got a sneak peak at some new material. Enjoyed meeting some great people.
New tracks are being recorded for a new album and tour in 2017. Stay tuned for more details.
The band had a great time performing at last summer's Burlingame on the Avenue show. Here is a look back.
Dennis Johnson & The Mississippi Ramblers has a great time performing on the main stage of the American River Music Festival..