Heavens To Betsy
Jeremiah Johnson’s sophomore Ruf Records release, Heavens To Betsy, is a Southern rock, blues-flavored, Americana triumph from beginning to end. His latest effort boasts tight production from Pete Matthews, whose driving guidance helped shape this record into Johnson’s best work to date. From the very personal songwriting to the guitar work to the prominent horns, every track is a catchy Southern-fried winner. Eleven of the twelve tracks were written or co-written by Johnson.
You can really hear the Allman Brothers Band influence on the first two tracks, “White Lightning” and “Tornado” as well as on “American Steel.” Frank Bauer’s saxophone features widely throughout the record and Rick Steff’s keyboard accents add the finishing touch.
“Soul Crush” is a real highlight, with fat guitar and a driving beat, followed by the slower-tempo “Ecstasy,” a pop-tinged love song. But the hooky rock picks right back up on “Forever And A Day,” as Johnson really showcases his strong vocals on a song he wrote while extensively touring and being apart from his family. The horns and keys are nicely featured.
If that “riding on the open road” feel is your thing, then “American Steel” and “Castles In The Air” will have you pressing the pedal to the floor with the wind in your hair while you rock on.
Two of the real standouts are “Leo Stone,” a heartwarming country-colored homage to Johnson’s fiancee and baby boy, and “Long Way Home,” a poignant remembrance of Johnson’s grandmother before dementia claimed her memory.
Tackling the Albert King cover, “Born Under A Bad Sign” (Booker T. Jones/William Bell), Johnson’s guitar flourishes, Southern-style vocals and faster tempo combined with Bauer’s prominent horns add a unique flavor to a timeless classic.
Rounding out this collection of gems with “Preacher’s Daughter,” a fun, upbeat sing-along that will have you moving as soon as you hear it, Johnson chooses the perfect song to end a kick-ass record. I really loved it from the first listen. Every cut shines and leaves you looking forward to the next one. You will find yourself humming these catchy earworms in your head, in a good way. I highly recommend adding this one to any collection. Johnson is currently touring Europe as part of the Ruf Records Blues Caravan with powerhouse singer/songwriter, Whitney Shay and blues guitarist/singer, Ryan Perry. These are shows not to be missed.