Eric Johnson Explores Outer And Inner Space With With Celestial MC-40 Signature Edition
Source: Sounding Board Newsletter Vol 15 - Jul. 2003
MC-40 Eric Johnson
Awesome technique, inexhaustible creativity and incomparable tone have established Eric Johnson among the preeminent electric guitarists of his generation. Yet away from the stage and studio – with rare exceptions - playing acoustic is among this guitar alchemist’s favorite activities. So when C.F. Martin approached Eric Johnson about creating a signature model to his specifications, he took on the challenge with the same energy he puts into his music. The new MC-40 Eric Johnson Signature Edition captures his sophisticated vision of acoustic sound style.
The MC-40 Eric Johnson model’s unique combination of design and solid tonewoods provides an impressive sonic palette. Martin’s classic “M” body style (jumbo shape/000 depth), esteemed for powerful, clear tone, receives a rounded cutaway for full access to the upper frets. The top of responsive Engelmann spruce is matched to 5/16” scalloped Sitka spruce braces to enhance dynamics and “punch.” The back and sides are premium bookmatched, resonant East Indian rosewood. The modified v-shape neck – 1 3/4” at the nut - is crafted from genuine mahogany, and features a solid square tapered headstock and diamond volute.
Equally impressive are the guitar’s appointments, which – like Johnson’s music – showcase a range influences: from modern and classic, to Southwestern and celestial. Bound in grained ivoroid, both the top and back feature blue fiber purfling, accented by fine black/white/black lines. The rosette features a single ring of blue paua shell inlay, flanked by black/white/black lines. The vivid purfling and rosette shine against the unique “sand/adobe” toner on the top, and a back strip of black, blue and cream chevrons similarly suggest the Southwest.
The matching African black ebony headplate and fingerboard provide additional “canvas” for Johnson’s imagination and Martin’s craftsmanship. The familiar “C. F. Martin” logo, inlaid in pearl, arches over a gold pearl sun and engraved mother of pearl celestial angel inlay. The solar system extends down the fingerboard with composite stone and pearl inlays: red Mercury at the 1st fret, milky green Venus at the 3rd, green blue Earth at the 5th, coral red Mars at the 7th, green Jupiter at the 9th, pearl-ringed Saturn at the 12th, green Uranus at the 15th, blue Neptune at the 17th, and milky green Pluto at the 19th. Grained ivoroid binding and black/white inlay frame both headplate and fingerboard. An African black ebony bridge, pearltopped ebony bridge and end pins, and polished and beveled black pickguard add to the guitar’s visual impact.
Eric Johnson knows about impact: his brilliant guitar playing has been turning heads since the 1970s when he was a teenager in Austin, Texas. At 21 he became a member of the legendary Electromagnets, whose intense live shows garnered a devoted local following. By the early 1980s, he was fronting his own groups, touring with Carole King and recording with Christopher Cross.
Johnson rose from underground favorite to national sensation in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Austin City Limits showcased his prodigious talents in 1985, the first of four appearances. His 1986 solo debut album, Tones, garnered impressive reviews and a Grammy nomination. With the release of Ah Via Musicom four years later, Johnson hit the big time; near-platinum sales, top-five ranking on the Billboard charts (actually, three separate charts) for the single “Cliffs of Dover” and a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental. He received the “Best Overall” guitarist award from Guitar Player Magazine for four straight years; the fifth year he was inducted into their “Gallery of Greats.”
After three years of touring and a “busman’s holiday” backing childhood hero B.B. King on tour, Johnson returned to the studio to record Venus Isle, released in 1996. He then joined the G3 Tour with guitar gurus Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, captured in G3: Live in Concert. Another side project was the blues trio Alien Love Child, resulting in Live and Beyond, a 2000 record that yielded a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental.
Eric Johnson’s latest is Souvenir, an album with cuts from every stage of his career that was released via the Internet in 2003. Despite the novel distribution, two singles from the record have become hits. He has spent much of 2003 playing small venues, recording new material for his next major label CD and deciding – with the help of this signature Martin - when to tackle his first acoustic album.
Adding to the MC-40 Eric Johnson Signature Edition’s classic beauty and premium playability are a polished gloss finish on the body and satin finish on the neck, a bone nut and compensated bone saddle, nickel Waverly tuners and a nickel strap button. A hardshell case is included, and electronics can be factory installed at additional cost.
Each MC-40 Eric Johnson Signature Edition guitar features an interior label personally signed by Eric Johnson and Martin Chairman and CEO C.F. Martin IV, numbered in sequence and stating the edition total. Martin dealers will accept orders for the MC-40 Eric Johnson model for 60 days from the date of announcement. The edition total and participating Martin dealers then will be posted on the Martin website at www.martinguitar.com.