New CD from Russell Johnson

North Carolina singer, songwriter and mandolinist Russell Johnson has a new CD, Anytime Anyplace But Only You.

Russell is well-known in bluegrass circles for his lengthy stints with two popular bands, New Vintage and The Grass Cats. Members of both outfits joined Russell in the studio for this project that he tells us has been nearly three years in the making, a mere 15 years since his last solo project.

“I have recorded a lot in the band context, five titles with New Vintage and seven with The Grass Cats. Also during the past twenty plus years I recorded When the Bands Played in 2008 with Barney Rogers – an all original  bluegrass CD about the American Civil War and one solo CD, A Picture From The Past in 1996. I guess it came down to the fact that I had so much material I wanted to record that I knew I wouldn’t be able to work it in on Grass Cats records.

When I started tracking in 2008, before I knew it I had tracked 30 songs here at my home studio with the core group of Jon Stickley on guitar, John Wade on bass and Rick Lafleur on banjo. (So be warned, there’s another CD almost completely finished lurking in the shadows for down the road! LOL)

Since I have been so lucky to have such good if not great lead singers to feature on the band recordings of New Vintage and the Grass Cats, there’s only so many spots on a 12-14 track disc that when you feature everyone there’s not that many spots left.”

In addition to the core band mentioned above, Nicky Sanders plays fiddle and Rick Keen reso-guitar, with Johnson on mandolin. Guest performers include Steve Fraleigh on fiddle, Julie Elkins on banjo, and Emily Kirsch and Kandis Johnson on vocals. The current iteration of The Grass Cats are also on tap: Johnson and Lafleur, with Steve Martin on guitar, Tim Woodall on bass and Chris Hill on fiddle.

Half of the 14 tracks on the new album are ones Russell wrote or co-wrote, combined with others from writers both in and outside the bluegrass realm.

“I listen to and enjoy a lot of different music, and I guess it boils down to that I’m drawn to the vocalist. Dean Martin is a perennial favorite here on the farm when my wife and I are cooking Italian, and Sway was one of our favorites. Dean was a phenomenal singer, he made every song his own.

I heard Strength of a Woman when Shaggy performed it live on Saturday Night Live. I was really drawn to the message in that one and his delivery. Adam Levine of Maroon 5 is one of the best pop vocalists in history and a stylist also; This Love was a smash hit for them and I just really enjoyed singing along (he has a pretty high voice). I always loved the pairing of  Bono and B.B. King on the original version of When Love Comes To Town. Again, both stylists.

I guess as I hear songs,the vocals draw me in,and then the next thing I know I’m singing along with a guitar learning the words and seeing if it will play out as a grass number. The CD that’s not released but in the can has as an eclectic mix as this one.”

Russell also sent along a pair of sample tracks to offer a taste of the music. Both are his compositions.

Anytime Anyplace But Only You: []

It’s My Heart: []

You can hear samples from all 14 tracks at CD Baby or in iTunes.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.