• Official SSR Facebook page
  • The SSR video channel
  • Small Stone bands on Last.fm

Five Horse Johnson
The Taking Of Black Heart

SS-135/2013

Five Horse Johnson is:
Eric Oblander: Vox & Harp
Brad Coffin: Vox & Guitar
Steve Smith: Bass
Phil Dürr: Guitar

Additional Musicians:
Jean Paul Gaster: Drums
Robin Zander: Vox on “You’re My Girl (I Don't Want To Talk About It)”
J. Robbins: Organ, Percussion

Recorded and Produced by J. Robbins.
Recorded at The Magpie Cage / Baltimore, MD.
Vox recorded at Kozy’s Chop Shop at Sunroom Studio / Detroit, MI by Bill Kozy and Erik Maluchnik.
“You’re My Girl (I Don't Want To Talk About It)” produced by Bill Kozy.
Mastered by Chris Goosman at Baseline Audio Labs / Ann Arbor, MI.
Fine Arts: Mark Dancey.
Textiles: Vince Williams @ Creative Print / Warren, MI.
Executive Producer: Scott Hamilton.
Robin Zander appears courtesy of Cheap Trick.

Reviews for The Taking Of Black Heart ...

Groove Hammer

Five Horse Johnson  exploded out of Toledo, Ohio in 1996 with their debut album Blues for Henry.  A raw, visceral recording, Blues for Henry came through with a growling, blues soaked passion supported by a heavy, grinding stoner groove.  Eric Oblander's coarse vocals and harp playing howled with ache, anger and a thorny sense of humor.  The guitar work of Brad Coffin and Phil Durr dredged up, as if from the bottom of a dirty lake, the sounds of classic rock, blues and the heavy resonance of stoner rock. Dripping with mud, each song was the gritty, jagged edged shade of it's influences.  The combination of these elements with the raw production of the album genuinely gives one the sense that they are "hearing in sepia tone", if that's possible- the sense that the music is dog-eared and venerated by time.

While the production of their albums may have become more polished over the years, Five Horse Johnson has accomplished this without sacrificing the gritty and raw feel of the music, which is really saying a lot. To be able to polish and refine the recording process while holding onto the initial grimy, brooding passion of the sound indicates that the grit is truly in them and inevitably a part of every note and syllable of their work.  And as such, FHJ has, album after album, demonstrated the ability to masterfully combine blues, classic and southern rock, and stoner groove at will, creating a sound and feel truly their own.

Five Horse Johnson recorded fairly consistently between 1996 and 2006, releasing 6 albums in that time.  After the release of The Mystery Spot (2006), however, we saw a seven year hiatus for the band, at least in terms of releases.  And now in 2013- the year of the snake- Five Horse Johnson is back with The Taking of Blackheart.  And, as per their norm, they do not disappoint.  For the second time since 2006's The Mystery Spot, the great Jean-Paul Gaster of Clutch has manned the drum kit for FHJ.  Needless to say, his work on The Taking of Blackheart is stellar, laying down his unique brand of groove rhythm to support the bands already well established raucous and bawdy sound.  I was, however, a bit surprised and disappointed to find that JP didn't have a solo anywhere on the eleven track offering.  None the less, Jean-Paul Gaster and FHJ work brilliantly together to create yet another memorable release.

The album contains a number of tracks which ride a softer, quieter wave than we might normally expect from a FHJ album, giving The Taking of Blackheart a slightly more mellow feel than previous releases.  Whereas past outings have hit pretty hard from the first note with the FHJ style of ruckus, The Taking of Blackheart's 1st track, The Job, begins with some diffuse, haunting sound effects which the band gracefully slides into.  JP is the first to appear, laying down the groove, then the guitar and harp enter into the track, sequentially building to the FHJ sound we have come to expect.  And all the while the ominous echo of the sound effects remain persistent though the intro.  Hangin' Tree, the 8th track of the album, starts off with an easy classic rock riff with sparse, quiet guitar work.  It periodically climbs to points a little noisier and drops back down, eventually building to the chorus, where the guitar stands and delivers a ballsyness  more familiar of the FHJ sound.  The track finishes strong with the kind of southern rock guitar solo and energy we would expect from a FHJ song, demonstrating the ability to blend various aesthetic qualities and intents into a coherent whole.  The final track of the album, Die in the River, finishes the outing off with a consistently slow, sad sound befitting the theme of the song.  The harp playing has a mournful quality.  The guitar work consists of slow, sliding country blues and the solos, rather then ascending to noisy heights, bemoan the thematic sadness of the track.

As a real change of pace for FHJ, track 9 finds the cover of Rod Stewart's Your my Girl.  And if that's not enough, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick steps in for the track's vocals.While the music is more or less  a note for note rendition, the guitar work of Brad Coffin and Phil Dur along with Erik Oblander's harp,  push their version of Your my Girl ahead with a hell of a lot more chutzpah than the original. 

Thematically, the most interesting aspect of the album is the vaguely described story arc of a wild west gun for hire which pervades the whole of the album.  The opening track, "The Job", describes a gunslinger who has accepted some sort of felonious mission and, in which, we are told the name of his gun and horse- Rosie and Mexico respectively.  Mexico is the title of of the 4th track, tying it back into the theme presented in The  Job, and describes the gunslinger's difficulty in getting the horse to ford a river so that he might escape the law.   Track 5,  Beating in my Hand, references  'the job' mentioned earlier, but how it otherwise fits into the story arc is hard to say.  The following track, "Quick on the Trigger", however, fits much more readily into the story arc, describing  vengeance against a double crossing 'employer'.  One would think this is the man who hired him for the job initially described.  The second to last track (10), "Shoot my way Out", describes the climax of the story.  The consequences of murdering his former employer come in the form of a gun fight (presumably with the victim's henchmen) in which the gun fighter is hopelessly out manned and must, as the title suggests, shoot his way out of the situation.  This is probably my favorite track on the album.  The song crescendos in an explosion of southern blues fury which, given the thematic nature of the song, vividly paints, with sound alone, the picture of the gun fight's violent conclusion and the character's escape.  He is however, shot during his escape which leads into the 11th and final track, Die in the River.  This completes the story arc with the death of the gunslinger at a river bank, his corpse floating downstream.

A story arc of this sort is certainly unusual for FHJ.  This, in combination with with the aforementioned areas of experimentation in tempo and sound, create an exciting derivation in album composition for FHJ.  And they manage to accomplish this without loosing any of the qualities we have come to love in this band, demonstrating their ability to grow and change and still be exactly who they are. 

Even an average FHJ album would be welcome after such a long hiatus, but to step up and deliver a top notch offering like The Taking of Blacheart, full of balls and new ideas is nothing short of super bad ass. But that's FHJ, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.


April 15th, 2013
grovehammer.blogspot.com/p/five-horse-johnson-taking-of-blackheart.html

Rocktopia

A good solid record with plenty to catch the attention.

The seventh studio album from American blues rockers Five Horse Johnson, 'The Taking Of Black Heart' is also my first encounter with them, so I'm afraid I'm woefully ill equipped to tell existing fans how this album compares to their previous work.

For those, like me, who are unfamiliar with the band, the Toledo residents specialise in a brand of dirty, grinding riffs played by Phil Dürr and Brad Coffin, with gravely vocals from Eric Oblander. Steve Smith lays down the bass lines and a smattering of guest musicians fill in the gaps.

'The Job' is a fine bluesy rock number with a touch of southern rock about it, but better still is the Canned Heat feel of 'Keep On Diggin' with Oblander showcasing his skills on the harmonica. The frantic 'Black Heart Baby' is excellent as is the driving 'Shoot My Way Out'. In terms of criticism, a failure to put the track listings on the CD tray in favour of the back of the booklet annoyed me, but that could just be the designer in me talking. The other criticism would be Oblander is limited in range, although he knows this and never steps out of his comfort zone. To remedy this, 'You're My Girl' features Cheap Trick's Robin Zander on vocals – one of the most underrated singers in the business for my money. Zander's performance is (of course) excellent with hints of classic Robert Plant in places.

So it's a good solid record with plenty to catch the attention – the inclusion of Zander only reinforcing that. Worth hearing.

- James Gaden


July 09, 2013
www.rocktopia.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3809:five-horse-johnson-the-

Slam! Scene

Bluesy boogie with all the trimmings comes courtesy of Five Horse Johnson on their latest album THE TAKING OF BLACKHEART. This 12-track collection explodes with vibrant bursts of harmonica and organ (“Beating in My Hand”), taking this squad’s tried and true gravel vocal and swampy six string technique to rousing rock ‘n roll heights (“Keep On Diggin’ “) without watering down any of the intended nastiness (“Quick on the Trigger”).Guided by a righteously rebellious and rollicking rhythm section, the latest selection by this veteran band is crammed with a wealth of blues-laden rock ‘n roll jams appealing to fans of everything from ZZ Top to Clutch.

- Mike SOS


April 29th, 2013
www.slamscene.com/2013/04/29/horse-johnson-blackheart-small-stone/

Rock-A-Rolla

Part of Five Horse Johnson's appeal has always been the versatility in thei guitar playing and a six-year recording hiatus doesn't seem to have hurt that any. With the satisfying crunch of down'n'dirty rock & roll and the bar-trashing attitude of the finest boogie and blues, they nail the spirit of the South with all the grace and fire we've come to expect. Redoubled in their efforts by the easy-swinging percussion of Clutch's Jean Paul Gaster, Eric Oblander's growl packs the punch of a Derringer while bursts of harmonica lay down the soul in what may be their finest material to date.

- David Bowes


April 25th, 2013
rock-a-rolla.com/main/?p=4292

Get Ready To Rock

The band have been going since 1995 and this album is their first since 2006 as they return from a hiatus. If you like your blues hard rock with a little stoner rock vibe this album will tick all your boxes. Their secret weapon is the harp playing of vocalist Eric Oblander. It complements the guitar and driving rhythm section perfectly as can be heard on ‘The Job’ or the superb ‘Mexico’. The band have also toured with Clucth and you can hear a little of that band in certain songs, most notably ‘Black Heart Baby’.

There is a little surprise on ‘You’re My Girl’ where Robin Zander of Cheap Trick fame guests and it sounds like a Black Crowes tune. Zander sounds perfect for this type of blues/hard rock tune.

The whole album is like a soundtrack to an imaginary western and titles like ‘Quick On The Trigger’ and ‘Shoot My Way Out’ only emphasize this more. Crank it up and enjoy!

****

- Jason Ritchie


February 19th, 2013
getreadytorock.me.uk/blog/2013/02/album-review-five-horse-johnson-the-taking-of-black-heart/

Terrascope

Working in a more traditional heavy/stoner style, with a layer of southern rock embedded in the middle, Five Horse Johnson, sound like Zeppelin might have if they came from the south. Sleazy guitars and southern-fried rhythms locking together to rock the house, the elven tracks on their “The Taking of Black Heart” album keeping your head nodding throughout. Stand-out tracks include the slide and harmonica interplay of “Keep on Diggin'”,  the boogie of “Quick on the Trigger” and the ballsy rock of “Shoot My Way Out”. Good fun, play it loud.

- Simon Lewis and Steve Palmer


March 23rd, 2013
www.terrascope.co.uk/Reviews/Reviews_Index.htm

Harmonic Distortion

Down 'n' dirty blues rock. The wild west conjured up via some boogie 'n' roll. Features guest vocals from Cheap Trick's Robin Zander.

Anyone with too sensitive a nature may want to give Five Horse Johnson a wide berth. The Toledo five-piece make music that doesn't pander to namby pambys. Instead they make hard, driving blues-rock that conjures up the pioneering spirit of the wild west; hard working, hard drinking, unapologetic and not to be messed with. Of course, some of us have a constitution that can handle that stuff. If that's the case stick around for tales of stubborn horses, wanted posters, hangmen, hard living, hard loving, and eye-for-an-eye retribution.

The band's seventeen years together has seen them release seven albums, the latest of which, The Taking Of Black Heart, maintains their trademark sound of electrified, heavy blues. The Job opens the album with vague, whale-like noises lulling you into a false sense of security before the drums and Zep-style riffs kick in, the guitar lines bolstered by some close following blues harp. “Will I stay on the road till I get what I'm owed?” sings vocalist Eric Oblander, neatly summarising the position of many a dues-paying rock band. Well, that's the road for you! As addictive as nicotine!

And that's the place where this album works best. I've given it a fair few spins over the last couple of weeks – at home, at work, even in bed. But the place where it makes most sense is on the open road, or in my case the A63. And a companionable travel buddy it is too, full of one-chord boogies pitched somewhere between Junior Kimbrough and ZZ Top. Of extra appeal to the older rockers out there will be the guest vocal appearance by Cheap Trick's Robin Zander on the soulful and funky You're My Girl (I Don't Want To Talk About It). One for the road anyone?

- Duncan Fletcher


March 17th, 2013
harmonicdistort.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/five-horse-johnson-taking-of-black-heart.html

Rhapsody

These Toledo boogie-stoners open up with an ominous riff, echoing and building and panning across speakers like early Aerosmith back in the saddle to record an open-expanse spaghetti western about recovering debts on a horse named Mexico. "The Job," the song's called, and the band never equals it. But their harmonica-hopped backporch-biker heaviness holds its own regardless, ripping down wanted posters and dodging hanging-tree blood as it goes. Eventually Cheap Trick's Robin Zander ups the pitch for six minutes of "You're My Girl," and in "Shoot My Way Out" they funk out with burly 16th notes.

- Chuck Eddy


February 28th, 2013
www.rhapsody.com/artist/five-horse-johnson/album/the-taking-of-blackheart

The Ripple Effect

Ok, cards on the table time, I love Five Horse Johnson…big time!!! I would like to meet Small Stone head honcho Scott Hamilton, shake his hand and buy him a beer, not least for the fact that his label is an almost constant yardstick for awesome rock and roll, but because he has given us seven, count ‘em, seven slabs of pure unadulterated blues rock joy in the form of this band’s back catalogue. So, with that in mind, I apologise in advance that this review will NOT be biased and impartial and you know what, it doesn’t need to be. IT DOESN’T FUCKING NEED TO BE OK!!!!

It may be nearly seven years since the last 5HJ album, “The Mystery Spot” in 2006 and, to all intents and purposes it may have seemed as though the band were dead in the water, possibly even to the band themselves, but on “The Taking Of Blackheart” these guys show that not only is there life in the old horse yet, they still have what it takes to suck the life out of most other bands and throw it right back out there as a big old fat hunk of fucking superb.

As soon as opening track “The Job” weaves in on its snaking blues riff and skittering grooves it’s clear that the last seven years have just melted away. 5HJ haven’t spent the time trying to reinvent themselves, they don’t aim to claim unchartered territory here, no, instead they throw out eleven tracks of exactly what they do best…hard edged, filthy blues rock with a swagger. Eric Oblander and Brad Coffin share lead vocals, albeit with Oblander claiming the lion’s share, but both guys are possessed of voices that echo with years of sweat, booze and smoke. Coffin’s voice, though still rough edged is the smoother of the two, time worn with fine bourbon and Cuban cigars whereas Oblander’s speaks of years of hard livin’ and bad lovin’…more cheap moonshine and rough Arabic tobacco!!!! Coffin’s guitar, backed up by former Big Chief man Phil Durr rings thick with Mississippi mud, his slide work flown in straight from the Delta. It sure is good to hear someone playing it old school and not indulging in the increasingly tiresome habit of trying to get deeper and heavier. The playing and the tones here are rich and organic, exactly the way great rock and roll should be. Of course no 5HJ album would be complete with a healthy dose of Oblander’s harmonica and here he singularly fails to disappoint as his harp skills are placed front and centre with Coffin’s lead playing. Of course this review couldn’t progress without some mention of the man holding the reins of the horse for this release. Clutch’s J.P Gaster instils the material with his traditional, eminently danceable fluid groove that pushes the riffs into an almost funky direction, particularly on album curve ball “You’re My Girl” which features a surprise appearance from Cheap Trick front man Robin Zander. Single material here? I think so!!!

So never mind the performances, what of the actual material? No worries there old chap. Each song is a pearl. Ok, so 5HJ may have their style, they may not deviate from that style too often…hey, the blues isn’t the most diverse of genres anyway, but each track is a nugget of pure gold formed from a perfectly executed riff, vocal hooks aplenty and topped off with that groove, that swagger…Hell, it’s almost sexy (unless you’re looking at a photo of the band!!!). The last seven years certainly haven’t gone to waste when it comes to amassing prime material.

I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that this album will be sitting pretty near the top of my list as one of the best albums of 2013…and it’s only February as I write this. That’s how damn special this album is and how confident I am that there won’t be much else to be released this year that will topple it (Clutch and Grifter notwithstanding obviously!!!). Now, hopefully we’ll see them out on the road…and hopefully it won’t be another seven years until the next album!!!

- Ollie


February 28th, 2013
ripplemusic.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/five-horse-johnson-taking-of-blackheart.html?m=1

Lords Of Metal

My first acquaintance with this band dates from 2006 when they released their fifth studio album The Mystery Spot and the blues and southern rock influenced stoner metal that was showcased on that album was kind of to my liking. It lasted no less than six years before this successor The Taking Of Blackheart saw the light of day, but it has definitely been worth the wait. Style-wise things have not changed much, but in my opinion the song material on offer here is just stronger than on the predecessor. That already starts with opening track The Job with its lovely groovy riff, while also songs like the bluesy Keep On Digging, Hanging Tree and Mexico clearly show the power of Five Horse Johnson. Both guitar players Brad Coffin and Phil Durr take care of the necessary (bluesy) riffs and determine, together with the rough voice of singer Eric Oblander, to a large extent the overall sound of Five Horse Johnson. The material on this The Taking Of Blackheart on occasion reminds me somewhat of Clutch and Molly Hatchet and those are certainly not bad references. Therefore I hope that it wont last another six years before this talented band comes up with a new album again

- Sjak


February 8th, 2013
www.lordsofmetal.nl/en/reviews/view/id/23628

Blurt

Toledo's Five Horse Johnson endures the Common Curse of the American Rock & Roll Band: big in Europe; a nobody in its own country. That's a damn shame, since few ne'er-do-wells give blues rock a shot in its desiccated arm as well as this band does on its seventh LP The Taking of Blackheart.

Guitarists Brad Coffin and Phil Dürr (ex-Big Chief, so you know he's got the goods) beat I-IV-V boogie riffs senseless, with Dürr splashing a psychedelic smear over Coffin's axe-wielding slide. Bassist Steve Smith and guest drummer Jean Paul Gaster (from Clutch) keep the rhythms grooving, infusing tradition with Midwest rocker drive. Frontman Eric Oblander rides this smoke-belching hawg like a leering alpha male, growling out bravado and punctuating the songs with harmonica blurts that punch rather than slice. The band brings its brawn to bear on cool cuts like "Shoot My Way Out," "Quick on the Trigger" and the damn near quintessential "Keep On Diggin'," solid tunes that exist as more than just excuses to blaze.

The Taking of Blackheart roughs up the denizens of Chicago and the Delta for a steamy brew that's more than just the usual rock & roll hootchie koo.

- Michael Toland


January 25th, 2013
blurt-online.com/reviews/view/4321/

Groove Hammer

Five Horse Johnson  exploded out of Toledo, Ohio in 1996 with their debut album Blues for Henry.  A raw, visceral recording, Blues for Henry came through with a growling, blues soaked passion supported by a heavy, grinding stoner groove.  Eric Oblander's coarse vocals and harp playing howled with ache, anger and a thorny sense of humor.  The guitar work of Brad Coffin and Phil Durr dredged up, as if from the bottom of a dirty lake, the sounds of classic rock, blues and the heavy resonance of stoner rock. Dripping with mud, each song was the gritty, jagged edged shade of it's influences.  The combination of these elements with the raw production of the album genuinely gives one the sense that they are "hearing in sepia tone", if that's possible- the sense that the music is dog-eared and venerated by time.

While the production of their albums may have become more polished over the years, Five Horse Johnson has accomplished this without sacrificing the gritty and raw feel of the music, which is really saying a lot. To be able to polish and refine the recording process while holding onto the initial grimy, brooding passion of the sound indicates that the grit is truly in them and inevitably a part of every note and syllable of their work.  And as such, FHJ has, album after album, demonstrated the ability to masterfully combine blues, classic and southern rock, and stoner groove at will, creating a sound and feel truly their own. 
   
Five Horse Johnson recorded fairly consistently between 1996 and 2006, releasing 6 albums in that time.  After the release of The Mystery Spot (2006), however, we saw a seven year hiatus for the band, at least in terms of releases.  And now in 2013- the year of the snake- Five Horse Johnson is back with The Taking of Blackheart.  And, as per their norm, they do not disappoint.  For the second time since 2006's The Mystery Spot, the great Jean-Paul Gaster of Clutch has manned the drum kit for FHJ.  Needless to say, his work on The Taking of Blackheart is stellar, laying down his unique brand of groove rhythm to support the bands already well established raucous and bawdy sound.  I was, however, a bit surprised and disappointed to find that JP didn't have a solo anywhere on the eleven track offering.  None the less, Jean-Paul Gaster and FHJ work brilliantly together to create yet another memorable release.
    
The album contains a number of tracks which ride a softer, quieter wave than we might normally expect from a FHJ album, giving The Taking of Blackheart a slightly more mellow feel than previous releases.  Whereas past outings have hit pretty hard from the first note with the FHJ style of ruckus, The Taking of Blackheart's 1st track, The Job, begins with some diffuse, haunting sound effects which the band gracefully slides into.  JP is the first to appear, laying down the groove, then the guitar and harp enter into the track, sequentially building to the FHJ sound we have come to expect.  And all the while the ominous echo of the sound effects remain persistent though the intro.  Hangin' Tree, the 8th track of the album, starts off with an easy classic rock riff with sparse, quiet guitar work.  It periodically climbs to points a little noisier and drops back down, eventually building to the chorus, where the guitar stands and delivers a ballsyness  more familiar of the FHJ sound.  The track finishes strong with the kind of southern rock guitar solo and energy we would expect from a FHJ song, demonstrating the ability to blend various aesthetic qualities and intents into a coherent whole.  The final track of the album, Die in the River, finishes the outing off with a consistently slow, sad sound befitting the theme of the song.  The harp playing has a mournful quality.  The guitar work consists of slow, sliding country blues and the solos, rather then ascending to noisy heights, bemoan the thematic sadness of the track. 
    
As a real change of pace for FHJ, track 9 finds the cover of Rod Stewart's Your my Girl.  And if that's not enough, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick steps in for the track's vocals.While the music is more or less  a note for note rendition, the guitar work of Brad Coffin and Phil Dur along with Erik Oblander's harp,  push their version of Your my Girl ahead with a hell of a lot more chutzpah than the original. 
    
Thematically, the most interesting aspect of the album is the vaguely described story arc of a wild west gun for hire which pervades the whole of the album.  The opening track, "The Job", describes a gunslinger who has accepted some sort of felonious mission and, in which, we are told the name of his gun and horse- Rosie and Mexico respectively.  Mexico is the title of of the 4th track, tying it back into the theme presented in The  Job, and describes the gunslinger's difficulty in getting the horse to ford a river so that he might escape the law.   Track 5,  Beating in my Hand, references  'the job' mentioned earlier, but how it otherwise fits into the story arc is hard to say.  The following track, "Quick on the Trigger", however, fits much more readily into the story arc, describing  vengeance against a double crossing 'employer'.  One would think this is the man who hired him for the job initially described.  The second to last track (10), "Shoot my way Out", describes the climax of the story.  The consequences of murdering his former employer come in the form of a gun fight (presumably with the victim's henchmen) in which the gun fighter is hopelessly out manned and must, as the title suggests, shoot his way out of the situation.  This is probably my favorite track on the album.  The song crescendos in an explosion of southern blues fury which, given the thematic nature of the song, vividly paints, with sound alone, the picture of the gun fight's violent conclusion and the character's escape.  He is however, shot during his escape which leads into the 11th and final track, Die in the River.  This completes the story arc with the death of the gunslinger at a river bank, his corpse floating downstream.
    
A story arc of this sort is certainly unusual for FHJ.  This, in combination with with the aforementioned areas of experimentation in tempo and sound, create an exciting derivation in album composition for FHJ.  And they manage to accomplish this without loosing any of the qualities we have come to love in this band, demonstrating their ability to grow and change and still be exactly who they are. 
    
Even an average FHJ album would be welcome after such a long hiatus, but to step up and deliver a top notch offering like The Taking of Blacheart, full of balls and new ideas is nothing short of super bad ass. But that's FHJ, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

- Mantis Von Presley


January 13th, 2013
grovehammer.blogspot.com/p/five-horse-johnson-taking-of-blackheart.html

Paranoid Hitsophrenic

Five Horse Johnson is a blues / southern rock band from Toledo, Ohio who play a satisfying style of blues providing daily recommended doses of harmonica, slide guitar and hard rock.  The Taking of Blackheart is their seventh full-length album and sixth on Small Stone records.  The album has been available for digital download since September, but it will be released in hard copy late January.  It is their first release in nearly six years and my first taste of the band.

I truly do wish I had discovered this band when I was a bit younger, I would have loved them for sure, they're right up my alley.  If you're into blues inflected hard rock with all the classic trimmings, you will not be disappointed by The Taking of Blackheart.  Five Horse Johnson don't like to waste time with a lot of ballads or slow songs.  They know what sound they want and they know how to deliver the goods.  They go straight for the hard stuff and keep hitting it until someone passes out.  This is classic man music here and what I mean by that is that the songs are honest and heartfelt, not emotional, tough without posturing and possessing a swagger without being obnoxious.

The album's sound is established on opening number "The Job" and the band pursues it relentlessly throughout.  "I've got a cannon and I call it Rosy, my horse's name is Mexico!"  That very horse named Mexico becomes the titular character to one of the standout tracks just a little deeper into the album.  I hesitate to call 'The Taking of Blackheart' a concept album in the classical sense but there is a lyrical narrative that runs through a lot of the songs, the latter two and "Black Heart Baby" at the front of the album being the most obvious, but each song can be seen as progressing a single storyline along.

Vocalist Eric Oblander's harmonica is used as a lead instrument throughout and is especially prominent on "The Job", "Mexico" and "Quick on the Trigger".  The latter song in particular showcases Oblander putting in work for the duration of the song on harmonica, I can't be sure about this but I'm guessing the song is sung by guitarist Brad Coffin, but if it is, their voices are so much alike it makes them indistinguishable.  My only other two guesses are that Coffin sings it live or the harmonica takes a bit of backseat for this one live and was overdubbed.  My money's on it being a Coffin song but I wish I had more definite information on that.  Either way it gets my vote for best harmonica song for 2012.  "Shoot My Way Out" would also be a Coffin song, freeing up Oblander for another good harmonica workout.  The song also spotlights some terrific guitar work.

That staple of good live blues, the hammond organ, rears its beautiful head in "Beating In My Hand", swelling constantly, and low enough in the mix that it's not intrusive.  "Smash and Grab" recalls Exile on Main Street or Let It Bleed era Stones while managing to sound tougher.  "Hangin' Tree" is a dark tune with a slightly more somber atmosphere to it than anything else on the album, save perhaps the finale "Die in the River".

"You're My Girl" features the vocal talents of Robin Zander from Cheap Trick.  It reminds of the kind of uptempo material Keith Richards would sing for the Stones, which was always striking as there's a big difference between his and Mick's respective voices.  The sound of Zander's voice, coupled with the variation between his voice and FHJ singer Oblander increase the Rolling Stones mood on this album, as Zander almost sounds Keith Richards-esque in his tone.  It's an uptempo rocker in which the band let's loose and almost feels as though they don't want to stop things short as they're having too much fun.  It's the longest cut on the album by a country mile.

The Taking of Blackheart is an album full of good beer-swilling, electric cowboy music.  Every song's a winner with a heavy vibe that runs throughout the album, yet the band finds ways of making each track distinguishable.  They establish a sound, then add to and build around it subtly, but to great effect.  There's a strong cowboy western element to the affair, most notably in the lyrics, while the music itself is built mostly from a blues foundation.  Every bar in the world should have a copy of The Taking of Blackheart in the jukebox and every bar in the whole world should really have a goddamn jukebox, shouldn't they?

Highlights include: "Mexico" and "The Job"

Rating: 4.5/5

- LK Ultra


December 10th, 2012
theparanoidmusicblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/five-horse-johnson-taking-of-blackheart.html

STONERROCK.EU

Five Horse Johnson should be in the same league as so established names as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the White Stripes and the Black Keys. Like those groups the band from Toledo/Ohio pays homage to the traditional blues, only playing it earthier, with less frills and simpler better than the mentioned critic’s darlings. Not, that a lot of people took notice since 1995 because the band never cared much about an image but soaked the stages of obscure rock clubs with a mixture of sweat and beer instead – while playing their asses off.

So is Five Horse Johnson not much more than a bar band in the end, compentent but nothing special? Nothing could be farther from the truth because the band always mixed traditional blues with a little punk and a sprinkling of stoner rock, creating their own sound.

Hard to believe that its been seven years since the last album "The Mystery Spot" was released. But that makes "The Taking Of Blackheart" even more welcome, an album on which Five Horse Johnson isn’t re-inventing the wheel but hons its sound, perfecting it without losing the grit.

Distinctive features are all over the place. There is Eric Oblanders singing and harp-playing, the guitar-work of Brad Coffin and Philip Dürr (ex-Big-Chief) and of course the unmistakable, always slighty swinging drumming-style of guest Jean Paul Gaster who is taking a time out from his day-job with Clutch for the second time to play with Five Horse Johnson.

"The Job" is a good opener, starting with some echoing guitar effects before the band kicks in. Definitely Five Horse Johnson but not a tad boring – even after six albums. Most songs are in the midtempo-range, always grooving, always bluesy. "Black Heart Baby" picks up speed while "Die In The River" cuts it down a bit and is the most obvious blues-number with its interplay of electric guitar and acoustic slide-guitar.

The big surprise is "You’re My Girl" which features Cheap-Trick-singer Robin Zander taking over the microphone and showing his rough side while the band injects a healthy dose of funk into the sound. With a running time of over six minutes there is also enough room for the guitarists and Eric Oblanders harp-playing to shine. So much actually that the song could have been even a few minutes longer.

"The Taking Of Blackheart" shows Five Horse Johnson playing tight as usual and enjoying the hell out of it. Its pure pleasure just listening to it.

- Geschrieben von mucke


January 13th, 2013
www.stonerrock.eu/?p=8147

Examiner

I have come to know and like Small Stone Records pretty well. So when a new album from Five Horse Johnson showed up in my inbox, I was pretty excited about it. But it wasn't just me. My three-year-old son was pretty excited to hear the new album since he really likes Last Men on Earth by this band. It's been several years since the last album from Five Horse Johnson, and it didn't take me long to think, "It's good to have you back, boys."

The Taking of Black Heart opens with "The Job." This song is everything that is great about this band: loud, fuzzy guitars, rumbling rhythms, and of course that harmonica. This song builds slowly instrument by instrument until after a minute or so, you are surrounded by the sound and moving your head to the music.

If you're looking for some real blues flavor, check out "Smash and Grab," which features one of my favorite things in music: slide guitar. Don't kid yourself. This is a blues tune...only louder.

There really aren't many bands out there like Five Horse Johnson, whose sound is equal parts psychedelic, blues, and heavy rock. The more you listen, the more you realize why Five Horse Johnson and Clutch are so close (J.P. Gaster of Clutch plays drums on this album). Both are heavy rock bands that work a really good groove to get listeners moving. Not to mention that both are bands you love to have blasting from your car stereo. Oh, and "Quick on the Trigger" is reminiscent of "Electric Worry." If you've been anxiously awaiting a new album from Five Horse Johnson, know two things. First, your wait is nearly over. The album will be available on 22 January. Second, the wait is worth it. This album delivers the goods.

- Gary Schwind


December 1st, 2012
www.examiner.com/review/schwindy-s-indie-music-spotlight-five-horse-johnson

Sputnik Music

Five Horse Johnson's latest record, The Taking Of Black Heart, comes after a 6 year gap during which the band members all took some time off to work on several projects. All that time off gave the members lots of ideas to work on, creating their most focused and mature record yet (possibly their best, too).

For those unfamiliar with them, Five Horse Johnson play some great, dirty stoner and Southern rock influenced hard rock blues. They draw a lot of their influences from '70s blues rockers such as ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd or Aerosmith, among others. Churning some of their best tunes yet, FHJ sound real tight without becoming too serious about it. Vocalist Eric Oblander has some really sharp harmonica leads, best heard on highlights like "Mexico", "Quick On The Trigger" or "Smash & Grab". He, together with drummer Jean-Paul Gaster's (of Clutch fame, who returns to perform on the entire effort), whose classic rock influences are imprinted all over, ride the album for its' entire span. The rest of the band is just as effective, throwing some cool, old fashioned, fat grooves on songs like "Black Heart Baby", "Shoot My Way Out" or "Beating In My Hand".

Even though The Taking Of Black Heart is considered a concept album, the story line is unclear, but that's the least of the worries, as the music is the one truly capturing the listener's ears. There's a lot to love here, especially such foot stomping shuffles like "Black Heart Baby" and "Keep On Diggin'" that really give the impression the band's playing live in front of you. Then there are the laid back, cruisin' rockers, "Mexico", "Quick On The Trigger" and "Smash & Grab" that work perfectly on a smooth desert ride on a hot summer day. The vocals interplay between Oblander and guitar player Brad Coffin gives the songs different vibes, while the music unleashes itself.

There are also more contemplative, somber moments such as "Hangin' Tree" or the closer "Die In A River", giving the album a more serious tone. However, they are as powerful as the other tunes and have some great hooks. There is even a guest appearance from Cheap Trick's very own Robin Zander singing a cover of Rod Stewart's "You're My Girl". It really feels like band has a lot of fun doing it and they just go wild with the guitars and harmonica leads, turning this song into a great, unexpected jam.

One might fear that The Taking Of Black Heart would fall at one point into a trap that a lot of blues rock records found themselves over the years, becoming a bit too formulaic, with lots of blues by-the-numbers. However, Five Horse Johnson take these variations as the basic foundation for the songs, enriching them with various elements, most notably Oblander's harmonica leads and Gaster's varied drumming. They also avoid sounding like Clutch, as the two aforementioned members played and play, respectively, with them, by dabbling more into the blues. Still, they have their similarities, heard at best on "Quick On The Trigger", but all of them are positive.

At the end of the day, The Taking Of Black Heart is an early contender for the best hard rock/blues record of the year. It works great as a cohesive unit and with or without a clear story line, it's easy for anyone to get caught into the album's Western themed universe. Let's just hope it won't take the band another 6 years to release new material.

- Raul Stanciu


January 12th, 2013
www.sputnikmusic.com/review/54371/Five-Horse-Johnson-The-Taking-Of-Blackheart/#comments

Metal Temple

You know how it is when waiting for your favorite band's new album? There isn’t a any rule or thumb of the time that bands release a new album after the last one but you got to agree with me that 6 years is a long long time, so when I heard that FIVE HORSE JOHNSON are releasing a new album I started to jump up in Happy Happy Joy joy song (you know "The Ren & Stimpy Show").

For you guys that live underground fearing a nuclear holocaust, FIVE HORSE JOHNSON are Ohio based Blues Rockers, FIVE HORSE JOHNSON have earned a reputation for crafting their own brand of top quality hard Stoner Rock, they have been together since 1995, there last album was out on 2006, FIVE HORSE JOHNSON plays Bluesy Hard Rock with Stoner influences and many Harmonica touches, this style doesn’t appeal to a large audience however it does appeal to me.

Out of the starting line “The Job” gives a clear indication to the amazing style that the bend plays, riffing along site the Harmonica, it’s epic, the song itself uses classic Stoner riffing and the heavy low pitch vocal sound of Eric Oblander. “Keep On Diggin’" takes the Stoner Southern style to new horizons with a Western and even Country style, the combination of all three styles is don’t superbly, and it’s a great preview for “Black Heart Baby” that turned out to be a classic Southern Rock style song.

The best song on the album for me was “Beating In My Hand” Stony riffing with deep low vocals makes this song the best. Honorable mention goes to “Hangin’ Tree” and “Shoot My Way Out” with amazing riffing and Stoner tempo and pinch of Southern seasoned Hard Rock. Jump out of the album style is “You’re My Girl” with that start with the classic FIVE HORSE JOHNSON sound however changes immediately to some kind of LED ZEPPELIN meets Southern Rock blaze. Nice songs however kind of stray from the album genre, maybe some kind of a tribute, sure will be happy to know why and how.

Overall, FIVE HORSE JOHNSON met my expectations and more, even if there main audienceis Stoner and Southern Rock fans I urge any Metal and Hard Rock fan to listen to these guys, they have been prodiving a fresh sound to the mix (yes and don’t forget clutch).

9/10

- Eldad "Blacknasa" Stainbook


January 7th, 2013
www.metal-temple.com/site/catalogues/entry/reviews/cd_3/f_2/five-horse-johnson.htm

All Music

2013's The Taking of Blackheart literally sees retro-rock survivors Five Horse Johnson ‘galloping' back into action -- or at least that's the rhythmic feel of the album's opening number, "The Job," the image gracing its cover art, etc. Given all they've been through (none of it more traumatizing than front man Eric Oblander suffering a stroke!), few would expect the group to come riding in to rescue classic rock from a fate worse than death (irrelevance), especially some six years removed from their last long-player's release. But as song after song rolls by, oftentimes driven by bluesier and rootsier songwriting ethics than 5HJ's ever displayed before, hope does spring eternal -- amen, bruvvers and sistahs, alright. Wailing harmonica and slippery slide guitars wrap themselves round and round laid-back groovers ("Keep on Diggin'," "Smash & Grab," "Die in the River") and foot-stomping bruisers alike ("Black Heart Baby," "Shoot My Way Out"), thereby luring patrons left and right into 5HJ's juke joint -- and the first shot of canned heat is on them. Heck, and if any additional credibility were needed, get a load of Cheap Trick's Robin Zander taking over the mic stand for the album's funkiest, most euphoric moment in "You're My Girl" -- Otis Redding surely would approve. Perhaps more than any other track, the latter also highlights Five Horse Johnson's enduring faith and pure joy in playing rock and roll, regardless of how many paying customers show up on any given night. They're a band's band, at the end of the day: playing to play -- and The Taking of Blackbeard is therefore a welcome return, bringing good news to the rock and roll faithful everywhere.

- Eduardo Rivadavia
 


November 28th, 2012
www.allmusic.com/album/the-taking-of-black-heart-mw0002434058

The Sleeping Shaman

Since their inception back in 1995 Ohio based blues rockers Five Horse Johnson have earned a reputation for crafting their own brand of top quality hard stoner rock that has seen them tour with the likes of kindred spirits Clutch and Dub Trio.

Their last album 2006′s ‘The Mystery Spot’ saw them collaborate with a number of special guests, the most notable being drummer Jean-Paul Gastor from Clutch. Back again after an extended hiatus, the band warmed up for the recording of this release by cutting their teeth live in 2011 before involving Gastor once again to provide the heartbeat for their groove heavy take on this timeless music genre.

As with previous releases, this is not strictly straight forward, the multitude of influences make this a diverse journey that contains moments of swing, boogie and gritty hard rock. The band sound fantastic, re-energised by the break, ‘The Job’ shows in one track why they are so good with it’s laid back rhythms and southern rock n roll style, the funky swing accented by guitar flourishes and the ever reliable JP allowing Eric Oblander to tell blue collar tales in his whiskey drenched voice.

This is a theme that continues throughout ‘The Taking Of Blackheart’ – At the core of the music, the band have instilled an ethos that runs through all eleven tracks that make you want to kick back, crack a beer, tap your toe and nod your head. Five Horse Johnson want to create music that is so catchy it defies you to sit still, even on more subdued tracks like ‘Hangin Tree’ which showcases a darker, sombre edge to the band, you are still carried along by the accessibility of the music.

Over the course of the album the full cast of members, completed by Brad Coffin on guitar and vocals, Steve Smith on bass and Phil Durr on guitar, all play out of their skins and drag in additional help on vocals, organ and percussion to round out the sound, making it incredibly diverse and busy, with harmonica parts breaking through the rock solid foundations and clicking drumsticks adding extra dimensions. ‘The Taking Of Blackheart’’ may owe its roots to the originator of Mississippi Delta Blues, but its outlook is as fresh and modern as anything else released this year.

At times it would be quite easy to compare them to Clutch, but whilst you can draw similarities to their Strange Cousins (not least the drumming style) FHJ have more in common with the same barrelhouse rhythms, fuzzy guitar and southern boogie that served ZZ Top so well with it’s heads down driving riffs embellished by clever lead guitar. As with all blues music, it is the space the musicians create for each other to express themselves and this skill of knowing when to ease off and play it loose is best evidenced on ‘Smash & Grab’ which is more like a well crafted, yet spontaneous jam.

Last time out ‘The Mystery Spot’ was widely regarded as FHJ’s strongest album with the additional musicians pushing the band harder and further than they had done before and this album sees the band step up another gear again.

Always at home in the live arena The ‘Taking Of Blackheart’ gives the listener eleven more tracks that would be ideal for a dingily lit drinking house with sawdust on the floor and the smell of cheap bourbon in the air. As gritty and as heavy as before, the band have taken time out and come back as strong and determined as ever with literally every contributor helping to raise the bar and show the world what they have been missing.

Whilst the incestual relations with Clutch have been good for both bands, it is great to hear FHJ back and underlining their own existence. Let’s hope they don’t leave it so long next time.

- Mark Hunt-Bryden


November 28th, 2012
www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/f/five-horse-johnson-the-taking-of-blackheart

The Obelisk

It has been a quick six years since bluesy Ohio stalwarts Five Horse Johnson released The Mystery Spot. In that time, frontman Eric Oblander toured the world with Clutch during what I’ve come to think of as their “family band” period that also included an organ and was brought in to sing for Sorcen, a partial Necros reunion. Guitarist Phil Dürr (also of Big Chief) joined forces with Luder, Five Horse Johnson’s Small Stone compatriot act which also features label head Scott Hamilton on guitar. And Jean-Paul Gaster, who played drums on The Mystery Spot, also happens to play in Clutch. The ties especially between Five Horse Johnson and Clutch prove pervasive throughout the former’s upcoming seventh album, The Taking of Black Heart. Gaster makes a return appearance on drums for the 11-track outing, and the record was produced in everything but Oblander’s vocals by longtime Clutch engineer J. Robbins at The Magpie Cage in Baltimore. Robbins, also of Jawbox, also contributes organ and percussion throughout The Taking of Black Heart, and Cheap Trick vocalist Robin Zander steps up for a take on Rod Stewart’s “You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want to Discuss It)” that trades off the parenthetical “Discuss” for the more genial “Talk About.” Through several of its tracks, The Taking of Black Heart seems to rely on some consistent lyrical thematic, though if there’s a narrative arc to the tracks, I don’t know what it is. Nonetheless, on opener “The Job,” Oblander mentions his horse, named Mexico, which appears a short time later on the track “Mexico” and tracks like “Black Heart Baby,” “Smash and Grab” and the closing pair of “Shoot My Way Out” and “Die in the River” seem to work in a successive progression toward the unhappy ending of the last cut, and the atmosphere remains relatively close to the Western-style vibing evident on the cover art. So if nothing else, there’s a lot of context behind Five Horse Johnson’s seventh, though the songs themselves arrive with as little pretense as possible, coated in blues influence and driving heavy rock that, unsurprisingly, finds a lot of common ground with latter-day Clutch.

There are, however, numerous distinctions to be pointed out between the two. A huge factor in Five Horse Johnson’s sound is Oblander’s blues harp. Filling the space between verse lines, doing call and response with Dürr and Brad Coffin’s guitars on “Keep on Diggin’,” taking the occasional solo throughout the record, it’s a defining element of what the band does, no less an instrument at play than either of the guitars, Gaster’s drums or Steve Smith’s bass. Another difference is influence. While Gaster is bound to be a consistent element, and his snare work early into “Black Heart Baby” or the later highlight “Hangin’ Tree” (not a Queens of the Stone Age cover) is easily pegged as his style, the songs he’s playing on are more straightforwardly influenced by classic rock. Clutch’s funky guitar progressions are all but absent here, and even when blatant commonalities show up, as they do toward the middle of the record on “Beating in My Hand” – Robbins’ organ helps drive the comparison as well – or the following “Quick on the Trigger,” which treads close in its bounce to “Electric Worry,” the track on Clutch’s 2007 outing, From Beale Street to Oblivion, on which Oblander’s guest appearance led him to tour with the band in the first place, those elements have a different stylistic context. Five Horse Johnson’s blues come stuffed tight into classic rock swagger on The Taking of Black Heart, and in that way, the album makes a solid follow-up to The Mystery Spot, and one can hear that the last six years has furthered the maturity level that that album showed coming off of 2003’s The Last Men on Earth, though were it not for the consistent quality of songwriting I’d be hesitant to even compare the two with so much time having elapsed between them. Nonetheless, “Mexico” and the ultra-catchy “Beating in My Hand” and “Quick on the Trigger” carry the record through its halfway point and Five Horse Johnson offer a new-feeling take on their trademark brashness, sounding all the more dynamic for the realization that you don’t necessarily have to go as hard as possible at all times.

And if “Quick on the Trigger” sounds like “Electric Worry,” well, I might want to recapture that feeling too. It fits well as the centerpiece, and the slide of the following “Smash and Grab” makes for suitable accompaniment, complemented of course by Oblander’s ever-vigilant harp. “Hangin’ Tree,” despite being one of The Taking of Black Heart’s strongest hooks alongside “Mexico” and “Beating in My Hand,” is moodier in its feel but gives “You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want to Talk About It)” a solid lead-in all the same, Zander’s voice piped in at just the right moment to revive Five Horse Johnson’s kick-in-the-pants classic rock. Some of the best guitar soloing on the album ensues, and Gaster, who seems shorted by not getting a drum solo somewhere throughout these tracks, delivers a standout performance nonetheless as the jam in the closing minutes of the song comes around to its finish. Reenergized, the push into “Shoot My Way Out” is head-first, and though the chorus seems to want more of Robbins’ organ work, Five Horse keep it simple and to the point with an insistent heavy rock groove that sticks through the verse and beyond. At 3:10, the song breaks down, but they’re not finished yet, and Gaster ups the pace on drums while Oblander and the guitars trade off solos to close, Oblander recounting half the chorus to serve as an outro. “Die in the River” has no such build to it, but the acoustic/electric slide guitar interplay, harp, rolling groove and lyrics about the speaker throwing himself in the river make for plenty enough a sense of conclusion. The album ends with an affirmation of that groove but ultimately no more ceremony or pomp than it started, and while that is among the numerous reasons Five Horse Johnson’s seventh outing is a welcome listen, I can’t help but feel like after six years since the last time out, they couldn’t be giving themselves a little more than they are. Nonetheless, The Taking of Black Heart states its case clearly in the songwriting, traditional electric blues arrangements, classic rock thrust and the excellent guitars of Coffin and Dürr. I won’t pretend to know how long it will be until Five Horse Johnson follows it with another album, of if they will, or what their plans might or might not be in that regard, but there’s still room to grow and these tracks show the band has no interest in being stagnant, so hopefully the next installment arrives sooner than the next half-decade.

- H.P. Taskmaster


November 19th, 2012
www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=388836721854&set=vb.103744269669446&type=3&theater

Heavy Planet

 Wow, Five Horse Johnson have been together since 1995, demonstrating stability in a universe that has very little. Despite that incredible feat it has been since 2006 since the release of  their last album "The Mystery Spot", which was hailed by most as Five Horse Johnson's best of a prolific collection of five great albums. Like most stoner band members where time away from any band is filled by playing for others, Five Horse Johnson is no exception with band members staying busy playing for Luder and Necros, among others. The stoner community appears to be tight knit, something that perhaps is a positive that might not be there if this music was in heavy rotation on the so called rock stations across the country. Whatever the case may be the time between "The Mystery Spot" and the impending release of "The Taking of Black Heart" has been used wisely by this group of super bluesmen because this album kicks major ass. Yes, it's as cliche as cliche can be. "This album kicks ass, Man!", but cliches are around for a reason and the reason for this particular one is so it can be used appropriately for Five Horse Johnson's January, 2013 release of "The Taking of Black Heart", their most ambitious and righteous release yet, and once again part of the awe inspiring rock label Small Stone Records. It is a powder keg collection of high energy, elitely executed blues rock standards that fit perfectly into the best sounds of the Seventies, but honestly, truly are more appropriately placed as a potential vehicle for the delivery of proper rock and roll back to the forefront of the industry. This music needs air time, it needs to be played as the intro to Monday Night Football, it needs to be on a dozen movie soundtracks, it is just as incredible and awesome a collection of rock songs as there can possibly be. There is plenty of blues infusion with standard harmonica rockin' hard right alongside incredible guitar that both burns hot and high on scorching, searing solos as well as provides beautiful, soul infused rhythm with down low fuzz and voracious bass totally devouring the atmosphere, all driven relentlessly forward by incredible jab, hook, uppercut drum combinations and topped off by vocals that could not fit any more perfectly with the skillfully written and adeptly delivered songs.

Five Horse Johnson consist of:
Eric Oblander - vocals and harp
Brad Coffin - vocals and guitar
Steve Smith - Bass
Phil Dürr - Guitar

Additional Musicians for the album are:
Jean Paul Gaster - drums
J. Robbins - organ, percussion
Robin Zander - vocals on "You're My Girl (I Don't Want to Talk About It)"

Yes, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick fame makes an appearance on this album as the vocals for one song, the aforementioned "You're My Girl (I Don't Want to Talk About It)". The thing about this song is that it is not there to boost an album from a band that does not (yet) have the popularity of a Cheap Trick or any other aging but still well known Seventies icon. It is there, as far as this listener is concerned, because it fits with the rest of the incredible, high quality music on this album, and happens to be a riff filled blues rock romp that is served perfectly by Zander's experienced and still incredible vocals, just the same as Oblander's and Coffin's vocals on the other selections.

Huge booming, and blackness piercing plasma beam riffs are prevalent throughout this album. Stoner rock is about nothing if not guitar riffs and no one brings a dumptruck load of them more expertly than the blues rock band from Toledo, Ohio, Five Horse Johnson. The opening track, "The Job" is simply awesome. Well written, well executed, overflowing with a barrage of sound that fills the listener with an overwhelming satisfaction and appreciation for the experience. Another song for the ages, one that very quickly made its way to my music player's list of all time stoner/fuzz favorites, is "Mexico", a perfect mixture of instrumentation and melodic structure that hits you squarely in the pleasure zones of your brain and heart, reaching peek interest somewhere far north of a hundred plays. Grab a song on "The Taking of Black Heart", any song, sit back and listen to its pieces as you thoroughly enjoy its whole, and you won't be disappointed no matter the selection. They're just too good. It's a thoroughly gifted and unique set of songs brought to you by a band that has used their seventeen years in the industry fine tuning their craft and their ability to a point where their 6th album is quite simply a treasure.

- Nuclear_Dog
 


November 10th, 2012
www.heavyplanet.net/2012/11/nuclear-dogs-atomic-split-five-horse.html

Metrotimes - City Slang

Five Horse Johnson’s latest effort, The Taking of Black Heart (Small Stone) is a fantastic record. This band lays down heavy blues rock with a swagger and a sledgehammer, simultaneously sounding sexy and pissed. The musicianship is exquisite, and the tunes are superb.

- Brett Callwood


October 16th, 2012
blogs.metrotimes.com/index.php/2012/10/city-slang-weekly-music-review-roundup-66/

Album Tracks

  1. The Job
  2. Keep On Diggin'
  3. Black Heart Baby
  4. Mexico
  5. Beating In My Hand
  6. Quick On The Trigger
  7. Smash & Grab
  8. Hangin' Tree
  9. You're My Girl
  10. Shoot My Way Out
  11. Die In The River

More Stuff...