NEPA Scene Staff

Renowned guitarist Johnny A. plays at Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe on May 5

Renowned guitarist Johnny A. plays at Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe on May 5
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From a press release:

People often throw around the phrase “let the music do the talking,” but only a few have the fortitude to really do it – to just go out there and play, shunning flash, shrugging off image, and reeling in the listener on the strength of the songs alone.

Johnny A., who will appear at Jim Thorpe’s renowned Mauch Chunk Opera House on Friday, May 5 at 8 p.m., is that kind of performer.

Tickets, which are $23, can be purchased on the Opera House website, by calling 570-325-0249, and by visiting SoundCheck Records (23 Broadway, Jim Thorpe) or calling them at 570-325-4009. The facility (14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe) is open from noon-5 p.m. on show days, and tickets are available for most shows at the door at showtime. Parking is available and free after 5 p.m. at the Carbon County lot behind the train station.

For the better part of three decades, the Massachusetts-based guitarist and bandleader has proven himself capable of generating heat at venues from working-class bars to international amphitheaters. And when the house lights are turned up, Johnny A. is just as adept at captivating serious students of the six-string with a virtuosity that earned him the rare honor of having his name placed on a signature Gibson guitar.

“I want to create instrumental music and deliver it like a vocalist,” he says. “You can be a great player, on any instrument, and people will take notice for a while… but what people really remember is someone who brings them a great melody.”

On “Driven,” his fourth outing as a solo performer, Johnny A. serves up plenty of that, in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins and Ben and Jerry’s combined. While he has been a bandleader for most of his career, he opted to work alone on this outing. That meant playing all the album’s instruments himself, but it also meant producing and engineering the songs, which he recorded in a studio that he invested plenty of blood, sweat, and tears into building.

Ever the restless spirit, Johnny A. continues to glide across genres effortlessly, exploring elements of jazz, soul, and even a bit of Chet Atkins-styled country on his 2006 instructional DVD “Taste, Tone, Space.”

That stylistic fluidity got front and center placement on Johnny’s 2010 release, the live CD/DVD package “One November Night,” which captures just such a riveting evening for posterity and proves that, in the words of Premiere Guitar magazine, “Johnny A.’s magic crosses over because he doesn’t just play guitar – he plays music.” That year, he earned a Blues Artist of the Year award at the Boston Music Awards.

The journeying continues on the appropriately-titled “Driven,” a veritable sonic travelogue that takes the listener from the mists of the hypnotic opener “Ghost” through the rough-hewn terrain of “The Arizona Man,” before fading out in the mysteriously lovely sepia tones of “Gone (Like a Sunset).”

“My goal was to make a really lyrical album that would stay with people, not an album that would make people think, ‘Wow, that guy’s a great guitarist,’” he says. “I’m not interested in blowing someone’s head off with my playing, or showing how I can shred. With my favorite guitarists, I always tried to put my finger on how I could pick them out of a crowd. You can have all the chops in the world and be voiceless – I always want to have a voice.”