Smoky Mountain Blues Society
A quiet, soft, yet screaming guitar player has come our way from Scotland, by way of Canada, to make our “blues” life a little better. Johnny Cox has unleashed his debut CD “Thin Blue Line” to the enjoyment of all. Johnny has a self released CD with eleven originals, ranging from ballads, to wah-wah blues, to reggae, and well….. everything in between. From love songs to Jimi Hendrix licks, to the soft words of love songs, Johnny has done a great job here! “Thin Blue Line” is a pretty outrageous debut CD for anyone! Playing for years, and years, influenced by all of the greats, his playing is just right. I mean he has the touch, the feel, he’s got the stuff, I’m telling you. He’s got the voice, and his songwriting compliments everything he does. From great vocals, to reggae and harmonica, his band lays down some great stuff. Nobody gets in the way. Johnny just let’s his soul flow through that Stratocaster, and sets the stage on fire. From top to bottom, every song is money. He cracks me up….he says “I didn’t commit the crime. I was home playing my guitar.” Yea, we’ve all tried to use that one. Well he’s guilty of playing some fine blues I’ll tell you that! You owe it to yourself for a listen. Chances are you can’t play as good as this guy! Check him out at johnnycox.ca, look for him on facebook, and hey…buy his CD on CD Baby.com. I know there are a ton of guitar slingers out there, but Johnny Cox has something to say, and you owe it to yourself to hear it. “Thin Blue Line”….hey we all been living on that for while haven’t we? Please enjoy, and thanks Johnny. One love, blue barry -Blue Barry, Smoky Mountain Blues Society
Over history, we’ve made a big deal out of the Brits ripping off the blues and selling it back to us, but what spyglass has been cast upon the Scots? This Scotsman that’s been holed up in Canada doesn’t do it 60s style. He’s down with the blues but he comes on like an earnest folkie well versed in the ways of the coffeehouse. A smoking guitar player with hippie tendencies, Cox is easy going when he’s not standing his ground. This is a fine dose of amped up folk boogie in the way that Michael Hurley probably envisioned the future. This cat has a lot on the ball. -Chris Spector, Midwest Record
Reflections in Blue
First item on the agenda, this is Johnny’s debut album and is composed of his original tunes and his tunes alone. That alone grabs my attention. Almost anyone with any musical skills whatsoever can do a decent cover tune. He has had an appetite for the blues that was like a bottomless pit since his youth, studying the techniques of the greatest guitarists in the business, honing his skills and working on his own style that incorporated elements of everyone he encountered. Johnny, as a result, has a unique style that blends blues, early rock, soul, country and just about everything else that caught his ear over the years. Cox is a sensational guitarist with an ear for what sounds good rather than what is the norm in contemporary blues, playing a million notes a minute with the idea that faster and louder is somehow better. Even at this early stage he has learned that what you don’t play is often more important than what you do. Don’t be deceived, Johnny can match the guitar slingers out there note for note but the fact that he can do it makes his playing style even more impressive. Realizing that quality is so much more important than quantity is one of those things that give him his edge. Opting for tonal quality over pyrotechnics and showboating, when Johnny Cox cuts loose on guitar, not a note is wasted. Thin Blue Line is a diverse album that incorporates elements of many styles played seamlessly, one tune flowing into the next for an album that says so much without the need to show off. This disc has something to suit anyone’s taste from straight traditional blues to ballads and pieces that sound like they were influenced by the early days in Congo Square. Johnny has a deep love for blues and roots music in so many of its many styles and he plays each with a passion that only a true blues lover could attain. This is one of those releases that I could listen to time after time, hearing something new and different each time. I recommend this one highly. While it is his debut release, it only takes one listen to know that Johnny Cox is the real deal. –Bill Wilson, Reflections in Blue
Don and Sheryl's Blues Blog
Guitar man Johnny Cox comes to us from Canada by way of Scotland. As a youth, he absorbed all he could of the likes of Clapton, Hendrix, SRV, and all the other legends of our generation. He left the British Isles in 1985, and continued to hone his chops, eventually writing and performing his own material.
His thirty-odd year odyssey along the blues highway comes full-circle with the release of his electrifying debut, “Thin Blue Line.’ On this set, he takes the listener down many of the same roads he’s traveled to get where he is today. There are fine examples of different genres’ that Johnny has learned to appreciate during his career. And, yes, all eleven cuts are originals, taking a look at life and love thru the eyes of a true, world-traveling troubadour.
Johnny leads off in a wistful way with the dreamy ode to his true love, exhorting proudly that “Your Love drives me crazy!” Perhaps her antithesis was the inspiration for “Runaway Train,” with its snarling wah-wah lines reminiscent of mid-Seventies Curtis Mayfield and lyrics such as “I love you, but you terrify me!” “New Way” follows a Latin beat, with Ansgar Schroer on the big ol’ chromatic for effect. “All These Tears” is another profession of love, this time set over a reggae pattern. And, “My Destination” is a mighty funky slab of dance floor blues, driven by Johnny’s gritty lead work and punchy horn section.
We had two favorites, too. The title cut begs for peace and understanding in a difficult world, done predominantly as an acoustic affair. And, the set closes with the bluesiest cut on the set. “Didn’t Commit The Crime” has Johnny on all guitars, including the scorching lead as well as the tremolo backup. There are echo-chamber vocals and Ian De Souza’s slap-back bass over Johnny’s proclamation of innocence, as “I was home all night, playin’ my guitar!”
For Johnny Cox, it may seem like a long, strange trip, indeed. But, blues fans are much the better off with him and his excellent debut, “Thin Blue Line!” Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.
Blues Underground Network
Those whom have followed my reviews over the years know that I really look forward to Debut releases, of which my more anticipated ones are the ones for which the artists or band has taken the rare gamble of having all the music on the album being just Originals. The latest album to cross my path to include that rare gamble is the simply brilliant Debut release from Johnny Cox, called "Thin Blues Line".
Hailing out of Scotland and now living in Uxbridge, Ontario, since 1985, Johnny Cox was totally consumed after being introduced to American Blues and has since dedicated himself passionately to that art form, for which he shows us that undaunting dedication via "Thin Blues Line".
"Thin Blues Line" consists of 11 great Tracks, clocking in nicely at just under 45 minutes and as mentioned earlier, all the Tracks are Originals of which Johnny Cox solely wrote all but one, co-writing one with Danielle Di Vincenzo. Joining Johnny Cox (Guitar/Vocals/Backups) on all of the Tracks was Rich Greenspoon (Drums/Percussion), and on the majority of the Tracks Ian De Souza (Bass) & Shelley Zubot (Backup Vocals). other artists on various Tracks included Ansgar Schroer (Chromatic Harmonica), Marty Sammon (Keyboards), Brad Roth (Backup Vocals), Malcolm McCuaig (Bass), Robbie Bellmore (Harmonica), Jerome Tucker (Bass), Neil Braithwaite (Tenor Sax), and Kenny Neal Jr. (Bass). "Thin Blues Line" was Arranged and Produced by Johnny Cox and Rich Greenspoon, of which Greenspoon additionally Mastered the album.
"Thin Blues Line" had a lot of real tasty tunes, which made picking three favorites a little more difficult than usual, never the less I chose Track 2 "High Price To Pay", Track 3 "Runaway Train", and Track 6 "Thin Blue Line".
"High Price To Pay" is a nice uptempo Track that really gets the show rolling along. Great Guitar work throughout from Johnny Cox especially after the halfway mark. This beauty also features really fine Backup Vocals courtesy of Shelley Zubot and equally great work from Marty Sammon whom really pounded it out on Keys. A really fun Track...
"Runaway Train", shows off more depth to Johnny Cox's music as he bring us a nice Blues tune with a Latin beat. Brad Roth gets in on the action with his turn at Backup Vocals. Once again Johnny Cox not only displays his great Guitar work, for which he throws in the use of Wah Wah for a nice effect, he also continues to display his rather unique and great sounding Vocals.
"Thin Blue Line", shows us that Johnny Cox is not just a One Trick Pony as he brings us a really nice laid back number of a predominantly Acoustic nature, bordering a bit on Country Pop, but the really good kind. This tune features some nice Harmonica work courtesy of Robbie Bellmore that I also really enjoyed. A really nice Track and glad that Johnny Cox switched it up a bit and added this song.
"Thin Blues Line" was a great intro to a really talented artist whoms music has that special edge of being just a fair bit different then the hum drum norm that there is just to much of out on the air waves nowadays.
"Thin Blues Line" offers up a really cool, unique, and creative mix of tunes, which in my opinion make for a Debut album that is a cut above what one would expect, which should capture a lot of attention, deservingly so. -John Vermilyea, Blues Underground Network
Bman's Blues Report
I just received the newest release (March 25, 2014), Thin Blue Line, from Johnny Cox. Opening with Your Love, is a poppy track with a light splash of country. Robbie Bellmore lays some easy going harp work on the top of this track with complimentary backing vocals by Shelley Zubot and Brad Roth. High Price To Pay is an uptempo blues rocker with clean lead guitar work from Cox and driving bass work from Kenny Neal Jr. Runaway Train is a contemporary blues rocker with a light Latin influence. Cox opens up a little on guitar and actually knocks down some pretty hot riffs. Drummer Richard Greenspoon adds a lot of texture. New Way has a familiar sound of One Way Out, traditional blues track with a New Orleans style drum rhythm. Hot, smokey backing vocals really make a lot of impact on this track and Cox again turns up the heat on guitar. Something For Me is a jazzy, shuffle track along the lines of Trouble No More (Someday Baby). Cox steps up with a clear clean guitar solo on this track and Marty Sammon adds nice key work. Title track Thin Blue Line lays back to an easier path and a dose of country pop. This is another track which could draw airplay based on it's listen-ability. My Destination has a spot of funk and Neal really pumps up the bass action. Again the backing vocals of Zubot and Roth add a lot to the track and sax work from Neil Braithwaite warms the overall sound. I'm Fine is a rolling R&B style rocker with driving bass. Cox really torches the strings on this track making it one of the hottest on the release. All These Tears is straight ahead reggae and with some nice slide riffs, a taste of harp and just enough of the traditional reggae rim shots to make it real. Long Day is likely the most refined track on the release with a R&B sway and rich guitar fillers behind the lead vocals. With a blend of Dire Straits and Eric Clapton this is likely the hot track on the release. Wrapping the release is Didn't Commit The Crime, a raw bluesy number with a strong non concentric drum beat. Really building as an abstracted blues piece this number is pretty cool. Cox really makes use of his guitar to make strong statements and this track shows that well. I found this an interesting track to review that isn't like most anything else I've reviewed this year. -Bman's Blues Report
Further confirming the universal appeal and contemporary sources of the blues; singer, songwriter and guitarist Johnny Cox from Scotland by way of Canada is the latest and one of the greatest to make his mark on the classic American art form. Emigrating from the British Isles in 1985, he was hit like a thunderbolt by the blues and ever since has been passionately dedicated to the music as evident in every note on his moving, expansive debut.
Eleven original tracks traverse the range of human emotions with the unwavering support of Richard Greenspoon (drums, production), Ian De Souza, Malcolm McCuaig, Jerome Tucker and Kenny Neal, Jr (bass), Marty Sammon (keyboards), Ansgar Schroer and Robbie Bellmore (harmonica), Neil Braithwaite (tenor sax) and Shelley Zubot and Brad Roth (backup vocals). “Your Love” is a jaunty, Stones-y pop rocker evincing the tender expression “That your love drives me crazy. Your love never lets me down. Your sweet love is going to save me. Only your love brings me around,” delivered in warm, dulcet tones. The blues shuffle “High Price to Pay” has Cox looking askance at romance: “I feel just like a raging hurricane. You’d better close up shop, I’ll knock you down just the same,” his raunchy guitar helping make his point. Funky wah wah guitar with a nod to guitar god Jimi Hendrix drives the roiling minor key blues-rock of “Runaway Train” containing the evocative images of “Red hot rails in a trail of burnt, black smoke. Hold on tight. It feels like I’m on a runaway train…” and a twisting guitar solo of compressed anticipation.
The sensual Latin rhythms and tough unison riffs of “New Way” nearly combust with intensity while Cox makes clear his redemption with “Feels like a new day coming. Born like this, but I won’t miss the ride…and though I didn’t know it, you were there right by my side,” his guitar snarling in defiance. Jacking up the energy with the relentlessly swinging shuffle “Something for Me,” Cox reveals his spiritual side with “There’s something for me the day I die. And when it comes a-hauntin’, there’s no need to cry,” the backup vocals “Come, come along with me” adding a layer of comfort. The title track likewise shows his deep convictions via “Talk to me baby, talk to me brother. Talk to me sister, I’ve seen you suffer. It’s a thin blue line we walk with one another” over a buoyant folk rock rhythm. Perpetuating a theme that runs through several compositions, Cox declares “I’ve wasted too much time thinking about it. Now I’m on my way, ain’t got time to wait and see” on the funky blues of “My Destination,” his lyrical solo belying the strength of his resolve.
The urgent boogie and explosive guitar licks of “I’m Fine” emphasize the message “I take it one step at a time. I take two steps and she’s taking nine. Then she went away like I wouldn’t mind” the refrain “And I’m fine, Yeah I’m fine” functioning as a mantra. The trance-inducing reggae “All
These Tears” finds Cox again showing gratitude for love with “All these years, you by my side. All my fears and all my pride. Come on, baby, come with me. You are my sunshine. Oh baby, please.” The touching ballad “Long Day” is a classic tale of longing for home through “Because it’s been so long that it frightens me. Yeah, it’s been so long that it quiets me. Four hundred miles and I’m gonna be with you there standing next to me,” his guitar emoting as eloquently as his passionate vocals. The loping shuffle “Didn’t Commit the Crime” ends the infinitely expressive set with Cox giving forth the wry lyric “Cuz I had nothing to do with it, I didn’t commit the crime. I was at home playing my guitar, and that’s my alibi,” his crying axe backing his story to the hilt.
Johnny Cox sings uninhibitedly about the challenge of the metaphorical “blue line” while he and his band play on with unquestionable commitment to the therapeutic power of the blues. Completely commensurate with the deep meaning of the music, he shares it with the world through his boundless generosity. -Dave Rubin, KBA Recipient in Journalism
Fireworks Magazine UK
This Canadian is a Blues guitar-slinger but refreshingly different from the herd. Sure there are lots of familiar interests but Cox goes beyond amped up re-treads of what the Chicago greats did back in the 1950s and 1960s. The old stereotype of the Canadians being more relaxed than their U.S. neighbours proves to be the case here.
What strikes you about opener 'Your Love' is how unhurried Cox is to impress. The track is so laid back it would have been what the grasshopper was listening to in the summer sun while the ant made preparations for the winter in the kid's proverb. The songs caress rather than going for the throat. 'Runaway Train' has the charm of the late, great JJ Cale. There's more than a touch of Little Feat meets Spencer Proffer (man it's been a long time since I listened to him!) about the title track and there's the late night Blues of 'Long Day'. His playing and singing mess well, both servicing the song rather than showboating.
He does move up the gears for the up-tempo 'Something For Me' which is really John Lee Hooker's 'Dimples' by another name. 'My Destination' is funky in an Albert King way and the Buddy Guy sting of 'I'm Fine' is a proper Blues workout. 'All These Tears' features one of those cheery harmonica sounds Stevie Wonder favours. Just when you've pigeon-holed him as a relaxed Bluesman with Americana roots, he whips out closing track 'Didn't Commit The Crime' which finds him toughening up his approach.
'Thin Blue Line' appears an apt title as though there's Blues running through the tracks, there's much more to his playing than just the Blues on this very accomplished debut.
Fireworks Magazine UK
Peter Merrett, PBS 106.7 Melbourne, Australia
*** Track 1 - "Your Love"
Wow what a way to start the album with this infectious poppy love story with Southern feel jaunty song with it's wonderful chorus. Hey this is an opening track that makes the listener hunger for more.
*** Track 2 - :High Price To Pay"
Cox steps it up with guitar and in a more frantic style vocally. Solid Blues shuffler with Cox's guitar ripping it up in an unrelenting style. A call from the heart that is powerful not only in word form but instrumentally then the chorus ushers out the song that has left you in o doubt that Cox is the real deal and he has assembled a formidable outfit around him.
**** Track 3 - "Runaway Train".
Step aside Jimmi Hendrix and Peter Frampton as Cox is paying homage with a very funk wah-wah pedal. Another track that has the infectious frantic style for Cox to step out on and a tale of love spiralling out of control.
*** Track 4 - "New Way"
Power packed Latin funk tightly bound together but could explode at anytime such is the intensity. Backing vocals reinforce Cox's vocals as he becomes incendary again on guitar. He plays with a take no prisoners style. There is not a moment to catch your breath as every element of this track is stunningly perfect. That groove man, that groove is so good and Richard Greenspoon you sir are a master producer. Ahh the power and the passion of this track.
*** Track 5 - "Something For Me"
A Bluesy Shuffle that is more stripped back than the previous tracks and allows the bass to shine as it propells the rhytm section along. Great track with the backing vocals again adding a new dimension to the sound. Cox stings you to the bone with his guitar.
*** Track 6 - "Thin Blue Line"
The title track has a definate Southern feel what with the slide that falls into a Country Blues. Backing vocals and Mississippi Saxaphone underscore beautifully. A story of love of each other and the trials and tribulations of people not getting together for each other. Absolutely love this, leaves me wanting more and more.
*** Track 7. - "My Destination".
A very Funky offering ladden with Cox's outstanding vocals and the omnipresent backing vocals keeping it real. A love story about just how much he wants her but has he spent too much time doing so. Funky and oh so good, Cox again delivers just the right amount of sting with his guitar weeping.
*** Track 8 - " I'm Fine".
Here we have a real Chicago driven electric Blues with Cox pleading his story, wailing all the way on guitar. This is again so very tight and ladden with amazing virtuosity from every musician. Cox certainly gets his point across, that is for most of his life. Driving it home hard and fast.
*** Track 9 - " All These Tears".
"Hey Mon", here we have a Reggae beat straight from Orange Street Jamaica. Certainly a big shift from the rest of the album and does it work, oh yeah it works big time as it is so infectious. It is sought of like Louisianna meets Jamaica so the styles meld together into one very enjoyable musical Gumbo. Drummer Greenspoon is able to step it up as are the backing vocals, bass and harmonica of Bellmore. Hey what am l saying??? The whole outfit steps up and delivers very tasty offering....
*** Track 10 - "Long Day".
A Ballad that steps back the intensity to allow Cox to deliver his tale of wishing he was home again. Backing vocals are used to very good effect as they add to the pathos. The tamborene adds another dimension to this offering and again Cox delivers a sublime vocal and guitar. Hopefully he will find his way home...........
*** Track 11 - "Didn't Commit The Crime"
The final track from this epic album. Here we have a real Chicago loping shuffle ladden with Cox's weeping guitar wringing every single emotion possible. Throughout Cox extolls his innocence and his alibi. Cox sounds as though he is using the harp mike to great effect for his vocals. A stunning way to finnish this incredible album from this Scottish born performer. He obviously has certainly payed his dues as he has delivered these eleven originals with a style that is certainly all his own. I could not speak highly enough of for the band that was absolutely on the mark and simply dynamite. The backing vocalists Zubot and Roth placed their voices in exactly the right place along the way. Greenspoon has mastered and produced an album that deserves and demands to be heard. Great offering and l for one have fallen in love with it. -Peter Merrett, PBS 106.7 Melbourne, Australia