CD REVIEW: Ace by The Johnny Mac Band

The Long Island based four piece The Johnny Mac Band bring their particular synthesis of soul, blues, R&B, and rock together in such a life-affirming, immensely musical way that you’ll love them early and often. The first single from their upcoming sophomore release Ace is the album’s title cut and it’s a winner from the first note. It’s easy to hear how well oiled of a machine these musicians are and they play together with a natural chemistry that’s impossible to duplicate. Johnny Mac helms the guitar and vocal chores for the band with admirable finesse while the band is rounded out by Dave Ice on bass and backing vocals, Ray Hauck on drums, and Joe Roberts on backing vocals and keyboards. This veteran outfit has chops and finesse to burn, but the years are no impediment to their passion. They play together quite marvelously and achieve a crackling live sound with this recording that reaches far beyond the usual moves for a band in this genre.

Johnny Mac’s guitar playing is the marquee element of this song. He moves freely between straight ahead six string work and biting passages of slide that give some genuine grit and gravel to an already fantastic performance. Johnny Mac distinguishes himself further thanks to his flair for playing just the right amount of notes – too many blues rock guitar heroes opt for a more is more approach and clutter their playing with too many vainglorious attempts to prove their guitar gunslinger credentials. He has a fantastic musical foil in the bass playing of Dave Ice and drummer Ray Hauck – Ice, in particular, duels with the guitar in an understated way and rarely constrains himself to playing bland bass lines. There’s no sticking to the root note nonsense there. Drummer Ray Hauck makes for a first class musical partner with Ice and his drumming understands getting inside the pocket of a track and making it as dramatic as possible.

Johnny Mac is a great singer. Hands down. He isn’t some immensely soulful vocalist, ala Otis Redding or Muddy Waters, but he gets inside of a song quick and knows how to convey its emotion without ever sounding overwrought. Like Hauck, he understands a singer’s role for filling the pocket in this music and imbues the song with enough heart and feel to help put it further over for the band’s audience. Naturally, Mac’s songwriting makes extensive use of the possible metaphors card playing offers, but he makes it work and it matches the music quite nicely. The Johnny Mac Band produces material and performances that should carry them far beyond their little Eastern seaboard kingdom and are near ideal representatives for blues music in 2017. “Ace” showcases their forthcoming album in the best possible way and highlights the considerable musical talents of everyone involved. Both longtime fans of the genre and casual listeners alike will find much to praise in this performance.


by Lydia Hillenburg

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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