Call it luck or manifest destiny or even serendipity, but Eagle Johnson’s entry into music was not the same as most singer-songwriters. Called a “temporary break with reality,” which sounds like his lawyer or doctor talking, the real story is much more interesting. Essentially, Eagle was arrested and thrown into jail for breaking and entering a Florida church, followed by spending time in one of Florida’s mental institutions. While there, he was authorized to play guitar and sing, which was deemed therapeutic. The music therapy proved efficacious and, eventually, Eagle was released.
Once liberated, Eagle took off for Memphis, the home of blues music, and began performing in local venues. He opened for Valerie June and attracted the attention of Zeke Johnson – the “last of the original Delta bluesmen” – who became Eagle’s tutor, teaching the nitty-gritty of blues. Later, Eagle ended up in Nashville, where his blues sound took on savours of rock ‘n’ roll. He and his musician friends formed a band, called Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine, recording at Nashville’s Bomb Shelter studios, aka the “Analog Wonderland” because of its use of audiotape recorders.
Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine dropped their debut album, Tennessee Beach, featuring “Push Pin Jane,” followed by releasing a single, “Mexico,” which caught the fancy of Lee “Scratch” Perry, The Godfather of Reggae, inventor of Dub, and producer for Bob Marley and The Wailers. Working out of his studio in Sweden, Scratch mixed Eagle Johnson & Clean Machine’s “All My Friends.”
All the above led to Eagle’s new self-produced album, The Last Gun, which dropped on July 16th.
Comprising 11-tracks, The Last Gun starts off with the title track, a blend of fuzzy alt-rock guitars dipped in hints of pop and psychedelia. Eagle’s voice, dreamy and slightly nasal, gives the lyrics a roguish relish.
“Tell me I’m not the one / That helps you get the job done / Go on and cry hun / Till they take the last gun.”
Entry points include “Better Comin’ Days,” a bluesy, swampy tune driven by the spangled piano riding a hefty bassline and beaucoup cymbals. There’s a raw, loose quality to the song as if a bunch of musicians got together in the studio to see what ensues.
For some reason, “Home” recalls Led Zeppelin covering a song from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, only infused with drifting washes of drooping sounds and dissonant vocals. A personal favorite, “Interlude #1,” a classical, orchestral piece, conjures up visions of Wagner with its lush layers of leitmotifs.
Rife with sleazy blues flavors, “Natural Women” exudes dirty, oily delta blues textures topped by Eagle’s lubricious voice and growling waves of wicked, moldy guitars.
Stylistically, The Last Gun tends to roll out on grungy, bluesy guitars, at once visceral and muddy with garage rock skin. Yet touches of pop and the wonderful classical flow of “Interlude #1” imbue the album with luscious variety.
The Last Gun Track Listing:
1. The Last Gun
2. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop
3. Better Comin’ Days
5. Interlude #1
6. Hey Leona
7. One Sun
8. Joey Got A New Job
9. Natural Women
10. We Are Africa
10. Divided Hour
Run Time: 26:36
Release Date: July 16, 2021
Record Label: Eagle Johnson Music