We'd like to extend a big THANKS to Honey Sepeda and the Boulder
Boulder's Home of the Blues, for this fine piece on Johnny
O. and The Johnny O. Band.
I LOVE MY JAMMIN’ JOB
If you love your job, you know that getting paid to do what drives you is a rare benefit in life. Getting paid to write about other peoples' drives is the cherry on the icing of life's cake. This fortunate source has the enviable task of writing about musicians with an ear for the blues. And with Dan King reigning over Boulder's Home of the Blues at the Outlook Hotel and Suites, there is no void of dedicated, passionate blues artists to review. And often, revere.
The tremendous trio that is the Johnny O. Band (JOB) exemplifies the unmitigated importance of finding one's driving passion and holding it fast, without reservation, hesitation, or inhibition. With front man John Ohnmacht on guitar, Marion Edwards on drums, and Ian Anderson on bass, the Johnny O. Band simply kicks ass and takes no prisoners.
Although not strictly old-school blues, the genre is clearly their irresistible authority, and they take the genus to some wonderful new places, merging a great deal of fabulous funk, rock, soul, and some superb hip-shaking grooves complemented by Ohnmacht’s pure and potent vocals. Blues purists might find themselves unprepared for JOB’s adaptations of classics (which Ohnmacht inherently knows how to sex up with great originality), but it should be understood that bands like JOB are necessary to the evolution for the genre’s endurance; and they are a faultless exemplar of a style’s right to continued development. Whether it’s a classic like “Sugar Sweet” (which he more than makes his own), or a JOB original like “When the Mountain Comes Down,” (a personal favorite off their latest CD), Ohnmacht personifies innovative composition coupled with an inherent wisdom for what works.
A particularly skilled guitarist, Ohnmacht displays a master control with an exceedingly clean precision. He is both beguiling and comfortable to watch, intense and amenable at once. One would be hard pressed to find too many guitarists with Ohnmacht’s skill and command. His playing is both zealous and mesmerizing, baffling the audience with his exactitude and ease, hands moving apace, hypnotizing the spectators. With a guitar in his adept hands, Ohnmacht becomes who he is, and he should do nothing else. Well, almost nothing. Then, there’s that voice.
Ohnmacht is an intensely powerful artist who somehow manages to sustain an absolute and measured domination over every aspect of his performance. Featuring a tremendously seductive voice, Ohnmacht exhibits a sturdy command over his gift–and it is a gift–and can seemingly do with it as he chooses. When performing a solo acoustic gig, his voice holds a haunting weight which resonates through space as if its own entity that he guides sincerely and purely with uninhibited courage, demonstrating the component most necessary for a truly effective blues singer: fearlessness. But when he’s with his band, the voice seizes an energy that necessitates the rhythmic balance and harmonies of Edwards and Anderson, as if to help contain something that is deep in the belly of the beast. When they perform another of their many originals, “Crescent City People,” one gets a glimpse of what lies in the belly of that beast as anger and disgust expound from him in every syllable. The song should be the rallying-cry anthem for what has been allowed to happen to New Orleans. All Americans should know this song.
Marion Edwards embarked on a singing and drumming career in 1965, and along with those decades of professional stage experience, he brings a lot of cool points to the bandstand. For lack of a better word, he is simply exciting to watch, bestowing a tight performance on anyone within earshot. He commands a deferential veneration from his listeners with the exact sum of pageantry and flash, demonstrating unadulterated enthusiasm along with a seemingly telepathic communication that evidently exists between the band mates. That is the only explanation non-musicians can fathom with regard to the on-stage interchange. They’re mind readers. Ten years of bandstand bantering together have given Edwards and Ohnmacht an intrinsic, I-can-finish-your-sentence vibe one typically associates with couples long married. I hope they don’t become yet another statistic. They belong together.
Ian Anderson only recently joined Ohnmacht and Edwards, and he already ratchets up JOB’s cool points. Ok, in all fairness, he is from Kingston, Jamaica, so he was pretty much born cool. He brings a delightful touch of the islands to the milieu with a lulling physical rhythm that matches the visual to the oracular. What voyages he takes when he plays–eyes closed, sometimes present and sometimes not–is his secret, but he patently enjoys his job.
Seasoned performers are just that, and between the three outstanding talents, they have decades of stage experience enabling them to hold an audience in rapt attention with a riveting professional precision that boggles the ears. And stirs the hips. These three somehow manage the seemingly impossible dichotomy of utter cohesion and total separation, simultaneously, with each part of the machine operating both individually and in tandem. And though one could argue that is the goal for any great jam band, few actually reach it. JOB does, and with notable perfection and unforced ease, portentous of what so much experience brings.
For loads of information on this jammin’ jam band, go to johnnyoband.com. And do your ears a favor and buy their CDs. You’ll have new favorites in your collection. Don’t believe me? Then trust the Colorado Blues Society stating this about their latest CD, Time for the Turnaround: “John Ohnmacht has proved with this release that he is a talent to be reckoned with; certainly one of the most original Bluesmen from Colorado. If this work gets the recognition it deserves, you will soon be hearing about the Johnny O. Band all across the country." (Colorado Blues Society).