The Legend of Vernon McAlister, Richard Leo Johnson's newest recording on Cuneiform, is an astonishing and magical release � a sort of acoustic guitar equivalent to the classic Lewis Carroll novel, Alice in Wonderland. Early in the 21st C., Johnson's neighbor in Savannah, GA introduced him to a mildewed National Duolian steel-bodied guitar, dating from the early 1930s. Also called a resonator guitar because its uniquely shaped, steel body self-amplified or resonated sound, the Duolian was a mass-produced, inexpensive, and road-worthy instrument popular among blues, jazz, Hawaiian musicians who worked roadside taverns in the Depression years. Previously, Johnson had used a variety of finely-made, modern guitars � most notably an 18-string, custom made, double-necked McCullum � to express his fleet-fingered, idiosyncratic and highly innovative style. But as soon as he heard the Duolian, and discovered the name Vernon McAlister crudely scratched into its side, Johnson tumbled deep inside the resonator's web, just as Alice had fallen down the rabbit hole. The Legend of Vernon McAlister was born, resulting in an all-instrumental CD that can serve as soundtrack or ‘aural' history to a written tale (readable on vernonmcalister.com). It is perhaps the best and most certainly the most imaginative project that this highly imaginative guitarist has ever done.
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(Johnson) developed a whole lexicon of expression on the instrument that defies conventional wisdom... It's the calling card of an intuitive genius. --Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times
...the most innovative guitarist since Jimi Hendrix. Johnson is a one man guitar orchestra. --Vic Garbarini, Playboy