Jelly Roll Johnson
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Jelly Roll Johnson

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Band Americana Blues

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The best kept secret in music

Press


""Great CD""


"Jelly Roll is not only a master at the musical understatement, but he also has a powerful way of playing to the strengths of the harmonica while still giving a clear nod to the contemporary playing styles. Hear for yourself why he has long been one of Nashville's top players and one of my personal favorites."
- Joe Filisko


""Harmonica Playing Front and Center""

For those of us who pay attention to who's behind the music on hit records, Jelly Roll Johnson is no stranger. His credits over the last 20 years, reads like a who's who of Country Music. So, when Jelly Roll releases a CD with his harmonica playing front and center, it makes me sit up and take notice.

A distinct departure from his last release "Jelly Roll Johnson & A Few Close Friends" which had Jelly Roll doing what he's known for in the business, great backing work with songwriters, this project has the spotlight directed firmly on Jelly Roll.

"Songs From The Record World" is genuine, it's round, it's smoky, it's dark, it's tasteful... it's good! Backed by top-flight players, Chris Brown, Dave Pomeroy, and Pat Bergeson, Jelly Roll pours emotion into every track with all the finesse one would expect of a seasoned musician, but oft times lacking in studio pros.

From the first 30 seconds of "Key To The Highway" you know how good this is going to be. The rhythm section is sparse, but extremely tasteful, providing a great platform for Jelly Roll to convey his message.

Of special note are the following: "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" which displays his command of the 10 hole diatonic. The Duke Ellington song, "In A Sentimental Mood," which showcases his chops on chromatic. And my favorite cut, "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying" which is reason enough to buy the CD.

Jelly Roll plays the way all Blues harmonica wanna be's think they sound. Get the CD and see what I'm talking about.

- PT Gazell


"Review from Harmonica World UK"

First, a new CD from Nashville Studio maven, Jelly Roll Johnson. I did review his previous CD were Jelly backed up some of the finest Singer-Songwriters in Nashville, but here is a totally instrumental project. Jelly calls his new CD Songs from the Record World because they are covers of songs most of us are familiar with- ones that inspired his muse. ..

Jelly uses regularly tuned diatonics and chromatics and has a tone that most of us would kill for! Backed by a trio (Bass, Guitar, and Drums) of some of the finest and tastiest players in Nashville, the support work by producer and Guitarist Pat Bergeson is stellar and will not go unnoticed as you listen to the way he and Jelly weave their musical tapestry for the listener.

The CD kicks off with the folk blues favourite "Key to the Highway" but done in a unique light swing shuffle feel and Jelly’s lyricism on the melody really makes this a great rendition of the Broonzy classic. (The Harp is a Bb in Cross).

Jelly’s tenure as the number one cat to backup a singer in Nashville has no doubt allowed him to develop his playing in such as way that now, on his own CD, he is the singer (with his harp) and knows precisely how to lay down a melody with all the phrasing of a great singer. The perk here is that we don’t get your typical harp licks strung together but a beautiful and subtle instrumental that beckons you to sing the words as he plays!

Next up is Percy Mayfield’s huge R&B hit, "Please Send me Someone to Love" and it’s played with all the soul you could ask for on our little instrument. (On this tune, he uses a G+ diatonic in Cross Harp.)

At this point Jelly switches to chromatic and a unique and sparse arrangement by Bergeson and Johnson of Duke Ellington’s ballad. "In a Sentimental Mood". The beauty of hearing him on chromatic is that he brings his rich tone, so richly developed on diatonic, and transfers that “depth” giving him a full bodied sound. (C chromatic in F).

The other chromatic song is the Lil Armstrong ballad "Just for a Thrill" in G and again his lyricism combined with Bergeson’s Guitar interplay give new life to this old chestnut.

The rest of the CD is on diatonic, how can you go wrong with a Brother Ray Gospel tune, lightly swung and played with perfection, on "Hallelujah I Just Love her So" (C harp in Cross).

It’s not easy to play a Mose Allison tune as they are so unique to Mose’s vocals with his quirky phrasing but Jelly is right on it with "Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy" and it speaks well on what sounds like to my ears a low F harp.

Patsy Cline had a hit with "Walkin’ after Midnight" and Jelly’s version on an A cross Harp keeps right in her groove with some tasty soloing and very cools use of overblows. This small band is kickin’ some butt on this lil’ ol country tune.

When Ray Charles sings the Joe Greene ballad "Don’t let the Sun Catch you Cryin" you can’t help feelin’ blue. When Jelly and Pat dig in on this gem, you will get the blues too but hearin’ this reading will leave you with a smile once your Blues leave town. (Ab harp in Cross).

"Busted" is a country classic that I associate with Ray also and Jelly really tells the story and will make you feel broke in a good way! (A harp in Cross).

Jelly Roll decides to end this excursion with a Jazz nugget by the late great bassist Charles Mingus titled "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" which sounds like an Ab harp in Cross. It is amazing how well this melody sits on a diatonic, especially in the hands of a master! Get this record, play along, sing along and just have a harpin’ ball…

- Rob Paparozzi


Discography

"Jelly Roll Johnson and a Few Close Friends"
"Songs From the Record World"
"Live From the Bluebird Cafe"

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Bio

Kirk "Jelly Roll" Johnson's distinctive, soulful style of harmonica has earned him critical acclaim, numerous awards, and a place among Nashville's top session musicians.

A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Jelly Roll's career has spanned 35 years. He began playing harmonica at age 19 in Cleveland, Tennessee. After touring with several rock, blues and country groups, he settled in Knoxville to work with the Tommy Cole Band. From 1979 to 1989, Jelly Roll played concerts and club dates all across America with Warner Brothers recording artist Con Hunley. The group opened for acts such as Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys, Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris.
Since moving to Nashville in 1984, he has recorded with Trisha Yearwood, Kenny Rogers, Etta James, Guy Clark, Lee Ann Womack, Travis Tritt, Shania Twain, The Judds, Alan Jackson and many others. His unique sound has been heard on over 50 gold and platinum albums, including three Grammy winning albums by Randy Travis.

Jelly Roll has made numerous television appearances with various artists, including Faith Hill on "Late Show with David Letterman," Alan Jackson and Jamie O'Neal on "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," Trisha Yearwood and the Judds on the "Country Music Association Awards Show," and Con Hunley on "Austin City Limits" and "Soundstage."

In 1998, Jelly Roll won the Nashville Music Award for Best Wind Instrumentalist. After receiving nominations for 1998 and 2000, he won the best Specialty Instrument Award for 2003 and 2008 from the Academy of Country Music.

Jelly regularly performs at Nashville's world-famous Bluebird Cafe with hit songwriters Fred Knobloch, Thom Schuyler, Tony Arata and Don Schlitz.

Band Members