Eric Johnson: Up Close With A Guitar Virtuoso

Eric Johnson i i

hide captionUp Close is the first album that guitarist Eric Johnson has released in five years.

Max Crace
Eric Johnson

Up Close is the first album that guitarist Eric Johnson has released in five years.

Max Crace

He has been listed as one of the top 100 guitarists of the 20th century and Eric Clapton has acknowledged his chops. But really, need we say any more about Eric Johnson's guitar virtuosity than to note that his song "Cliffs of Dover" is the ultimate winning challenge of the video game "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock"?

Now, Johnson brings those fast fingers to a new CD. Up Close features appearances by Steve Miller, Jimmie Vaughan, Sonny Landreth and Jonny Lang.

Being around rock stars is nothing new for Johnson. He had been slipping into clubs in Austin since he was a kid.

"Steve Miller, Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson, Johnny Winter ... you just thought this was the status quo for the rest of the world," Johnson tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hansen. "The first time I left Austin and went to L.A. I said, 'Where are all the bands?'"

Johnson has worked as a session guitarist for Cat Stevens, Christopher Cross and Carole King. As a sideman, Johnson learned lessons that he now uses in his own work.

"It's not about attention on what I would do for them, but how I can best serve their music," he says. "It helps my arranging chops and orchestration chops."

Up Close is the first album that Johnson has released in five years. Though it has many guest appearances from some of rock's greatest musicians, Johnson still has several people whom he would like to collaborate  and one person in particular.

"Stevie Wonder," says Johnson. "He's an inspiration that will last a lifetime."

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