What They're Saying...
"...heaps of jazz sensibility. ...somewhat like Bill Frisell, Johnson is unbounded by genre classification and slips and slides among swampy wa-waing, convincing Latin, bluegrass, and much more." - Earshot Jazz
"...arguably the best dobro player in America. ...his remarkable singing voice is only surpassed by his instrumental prowess. - Dennis Roger Reed, Folkworks Magazine
Vintage Guitar on Freehand:
Orville Johnson falls under the folk umbrella the way that Doc Watson does; he's more interpreter than writer and he, too, is a master instrumentalist-although, instead of flatpicking, Dobro is his forte'. Freehand (on his own MongrelFolk label) is an eclectic collection, running the gamut from Latin jazz to Bill Monroe's "Rocky Road Blues", both played on the dobro- the latter featuring Johnson trading licks with the legendary Mike Auldridge. Similarly, Josh Graves' appropriately titled "Dobro Rhumba" turns into a duet with Dobro great Stacy Phillips. On a beautiful reading of "Somewhere" from West Side Story, Johnson's lyrical Dobro is backed only by John Knowles' guitar accompaniment, while Orville supplies all the instruments on the Stones "As Tears Go By". The quirky swing instrumental "Waggy Tail" is the Seattle artist's sole original, and only half of the CD's 10 songs are vocals. With a mellow voice that is also reminiscent of Doc Watson, Johnson's singing is icing on an already rich cake. And a very tasty one at that. - Dan Forte
Encyclopedia of Northwest Music (Sasquatch Press 1999):
"Multi-instrumentalist Orville Johnson is the guy northwest musicians call when they want that perfect dobro part on their latest recording. But although he plays guitar (also lap steel and bottleneck slide) mandolin, banjo, and fiddle, "instrumental gunslinger" Johnson considers himself first and foremost a singer."
"Orville Johnson is one of the most unique voices in dobro-style playing today." - Brad's Page of Steel
"Great songwriting, singing, and playing..." - Dirty Linen
Acoustic Guitar Magazine on Slide & Joy!
Orville Johnson places his dobro and slide guitar in musical settings where they are, as a rule, anomalies. While he does rip and whine thru bluegrass and blues numbers, his ventures into New Orleans and modern jazz, Booker T and the MG's style R&B, and various Latin-American styles give this cd its unique character. Johnson's obvious understanding of and reverence for these genres and his abilities both as a soloist and an ensemble player, not to mention his very adept and expressive playing, make Slide & Joy a treat.
"An outstanding acoustic artist..." - Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"A major talent..." - Victory Music Review
"Orville is a player's player..." - Seattle Times
"His song Blueprint for the Blues is one of the greatest "classic" blues songs ever written..." - Consumer Guide
Blues Access on Blueprint for the Blues
Four stars. Orville Johnson's craftsmanship is a thing of simple beauty. Pretty folk and country blues guitar picking, well-designed songs and earnest, sturdy vocals. On Blueprint for the Blues (OJM 001) the Seattle-based picker covers lots of ground in an easy, homespun style.His guitar sparkles on a lovely, unplugged version of the soul classic "If You Need Me" ; he gives a nod to revered 60's folkie Fred Neil, the Rev. Gary Davis and Willie Dixon and even takes on Son House's a cappella tour de force, "Grinnin' in Your Face." Whether breathing life into his own compositions or rendering covers in his easy, fireside manner, all things are driven by his provocative but well-mannered acoustic and slide guitar work.
Rooster's Blues Picks in Blues Revue Magazine
Orville learned to sing in church. From the way he plays guitar, slide guitar, mandolin and whatever other stringed instruments are on this disc, someone must have been listening to his prayers. His "God's Gonna Ease My Troublin' Mind" is as chill-inducing as Blind Willie Johnson. This acoustic recording has a terrific presence, too. (And any fan of Fred Neil is OK by me) A standout.
"Orville Johnson has worked long and hard to earn his reputation as the leading player of plucked acoustic instruments in the Northwest. guitar, dobro, mandolin-he's a master of them all. And he's not a bad singer, either!" - The Rocket