Johnny Mac Band – ‘Ace’
Ace – the new CD is chock full of all Blues elements and more, with thirteen colossal tracks. The Johnny Mac Band features Johnny Mac, a veteran of the New York circuit. Singing guitars and fiery solos bookend soulful voices supported by the rock-solid rhythm section of Joe Roberts on keyboards, Dave Ice on bass, and Raymond Hauck on drums.
The band also features the vocal styles and guitar work of Mohair Sam Wylie, a 79, year old blues-man from Badin, North Carolina. The subtle influence of BB King, Ray Charles and others inform the band’s original music which is distinctly their own. “Makin’ Changes” is the first track, and it’s the least of all to feature in this review. It’s not that it’s a bad opener, but maybe just a bad way to open, is it seems to sit better somewhere in the middle. It harks back to the 70s with songs like “I Got The Music In Me” which if it isn’t influenced by, I’d be very surprised.
But there’s so much more to it than spotting the obvious. There’s an original song underneath it all, with some amazing guitar soling from Mac himself. It might even just be a lot of ideas thrown together to surround his string talents. But the message in the song is important too.
You don’t know what to expect after that, but you’d never expect what you get either. The whole band do a complete 180 on “Om Badi” and the CD starts to get very interesting, very swiftly. All-of a-sudden you’re on a boat, sailing with pure reggae music washing all over you. The bananas couldn’t taste better, as you’re looking for the coconuts. This is a pure party atmosphere with zero in common with the opening tune. And if that’s not enough, the following track “Om Badi (Reprise)” finishes it off with a completeness it doesn’t even call for. But it puts the cherry on top of the pineapple, so to speak.
“5 Reasons To Leave” is a rocking track with another completely different overall sound and feel. It’s very structured in country blues, ala Allman Bros. If Johnny Mac isn’t influenced by Duane and Greg, then the sky is never blue. It’s just so easy to tell, but the compliments are everything to prove worthy of the two legends. The guitar playing on this is absolutely-incendiary. Just a hot pile of melted strings is all that’s left by the time it’s over. It’s a near perfect song, but something is lacking in the production values on it, which isn’t all that hard to notice without the headphones.
You can’t get full time love from a “Part Time Man” and that’s where it becomes undeniably cool for the most part, with my pick for the album’s best track. This is full on Blues with no holding back, and the result is ear piercing. This is where he puts in his best overall efforts in both the guitar and vocals with all he’s got. At least it reaches above and beyond the rest for me.
But I give honorable mentions to “Soul Angel” and I also really like “Groove Machine” too. Those are the most memorable tracks because they’re all very focused and cover a wide range of styles. The musicianship of Mac and CO, speaks for itself.