The Cinder Grove by Chuck JohnsonRelease date: February 12, 2021
Chuck Johnson is a guitarist that is slowly gaining respect for his work. But such a statement just might oversimplify things. You see, Johnson isn’t the flashy electric guitar virtuoso, nor the intricate acoustic guitar picker in the style of legendary John Fahey. Oh, wait, actually he is. Both of those, and more.
Actually, Johnson is also a pedal steel guitar virtuoso. But as both his previous outing Balsams and his latest one, The Cinder Grove show pedal steel guitar doesn’t just serve the purpose of showing who’s the fastest (pedal steel) slinger in the West. You can use it to create ambient soundscapes of ethereal beauty, ambient country if you will.
The Cinder Grove is more proof of the above point. Johnson might not be the sole purveyor of this style these days, but it seems that he has made the biggest advances so far. The fact that some of his previous releases show that he can handle any kind of a guitar like a master help him convey what he is trying to achieve here with ease and grace. Johnson is using all the capabilities of that instrument. All those elongated, twangy notes in an ambient setting as they were actually envisioned for it. You get the feeling that maybe they were.
And then he just doesn’t leave the pedal steel all by itself, he uses an electric organ and synth embellishments throughout and also brings in touches of piano (Sarah Davachi) and a string trio on a few tracks.
As The Cinder Grove progresses, the ambient aural paintings Johnson creates just keep getting richer in their (musical) palettes.