Eric Johnson is on the short list of all-time guitar heroes. He has earned critical and commercial success, a Grammy Award, accolades from his peers, and unabashed devotion from his fans. He began his musical career at age 16, and by the end of the '70s, his burgeoning reputation led to session work with the likes of Cat Stevens, Carole King, and Christopher Cross. In fact, he played on Cross's Grammy-sweeping, self-titled 1980 debut album. One of the most important breaks of Johnson's career was a 1984 appearance on the PBS television show Austin City Limits. Reportedly, Prince saw Johnson's performance and recommended him to his label, Warner Bros. Records. The Warner subsidiary Reprise Records signed Johnson, and he released Tones in 1986, featuring the Grammy-nominated song "Zap."
Johnson's subsequent releases on other labels included the Platinum-certified Ah Via Musicom (1990), which featured the Grammy-winning track "Cliffs of Dover;" Venus Isle (1996), which featured the Grammy-nominated tracks "S.R.V." and "Pavilion;" and the Grammy-nominated Bloom (2005). He was recently named Guitar International's Guitarist of the Year and has won an unprecedented 33 awards at the Austin Music Awards since 1982, including recent awards for Best Electric Guitar, Best Acoustic Guitar, and Best Instrumental Band.
Johnson's myriad and distinctive musical gifts are vividly evident on the guitarist's aptly titled new album, Up Close, released in 2010 on his own Vortexan Music label via EMI Distribution. The new 15-track disc finds the noted master craftsman cutting loose, roaming through variations on the rock, blues, pop, country, and jazz that dwell at the core of his sound, pushing the dynamic range of his artistry, and mixing it up with such friends and peers as guitarists Jimmie Vaughan and Sonny Landreth, and guest singers Steve Miller, Jonny Lang, and Malford Milligan. Tonight at B.B. King Blues Club, he takes the stage with a power trio featuring Will Lee on bass and Anton Fig on drums, both members of David Letterman's renowned house band, the Paul Shaffer-led CBS Orchestra.
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