The Johnny Mac Band – “ACE”
Johnny Mac Band’s CD – Ace, is a breezy jazz-oriented blues masterpiece with pop, rock and soul written all over it. The players are all fantastic including the man of the hour. This isn’t your daddy’s jazz, nor your older brothers funk. The R&B applied to what is essentially the blues form, is how it all rounds out to a contemporary force to reckon with, even though it’s just as old fashioned as it is modern. This is pulled off with an effortless sounding result that breed all positive results from the New Yorker. No question, it’s a good band with a release to be proud of.
The music is down-home blues, and downright hard to the core about it. There is no need for fancy songwriting when there’s too much showcasing to do with some awesome guitar playing by Mac and the Mohair Sam Wylie, from Badin, North Carolina. They trade some amazing licks but the solos of Mac are second to none. Some of the songs are clearly built around them but so what, because when they cook they really catch fire. Just one pass of the opener “Makin’ Changes” and there is no turning back. Most of what’s to be found throughout the album can be heard on it. The sound is very southern without being confined. And it stands up there with everyone from Duane Allman to Eric Clapton when he takes the solo, you can even hear harder players like Gary Moore if you listen closely. The second track, “Om Badi” is an interesting piece of music that reminds of the Who’s “Magic Bus” taking a ride on the beach. It’s almost epic but it isn’t that serious, but it does follow with a cool “Reprise.” But it’s the horns that grab you the most, and you want to celebrate around the campfire in a congo-line or something. It rubs you the right way like that.
“Part Time” man with its romantic essence is a high point in the songwriting department, which isn’t the album’s strongest suit, but not its weakest either. It’s just an area that doesn’t seem to be the foremost goal out of a lack of need for it when the playing is so amazing. It has one of those killer solos that practically blindside with sharpness. And this also rates right up there with the Robert Cray’s of the world in the vocal department. It sounds like it was influenced by those who influenced him as well, drawing from the roots and branches of the same trees. With 13 tracks to enjoy, there’s much to choose from and that’s where the mention of “5 Reasons To Leave” comes in with the tied to the “Whipping Post” style which turns almost gospel by the time it’s over. They span the map with this one, and you wind up singing with the choir. Another hot point is “Ace” with the same caliber of everything. You don’t hear this every day, that’s for sure. And to top it off my favorite track is the soft rocking “Goodbye Orlando” with some of the best playing on it for my money. They get funky on some tracks with an R&B balance to make for what must be one of the best blues albums of the year. Larry Toering