Five Horse Johnson prepping for overseas tourWritten by Jay Hathaway | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo blues-rock powerhouse Five Horse Johnson is preparing to tour overseas in support of its new album.
After an appearance at Toledo’s Mainstreet Bar & Grill (formerly The Main Event) on June 29, the band will embark on a summer tour of Europe. The tour will begin July 13 at the Stoned from the Underground festival in Erfurt, Germany, followed by many more dates in Germany, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
The new album, “The Taking of Black Heart,” provides what fans of the band have come to expect over the years — hard-driving blues-rock fueled by whiskey and heartbreak.
Singer/blues harpist Eric Oblander said the album was not part of the original plan for their next release.
“We’ve always had intentions of doing another record, and are actually in the works of doing a live record,” he said. “We tried to record the live record on our last European tour, but the recordings didn’t turn out the way we wanted them to, quality-wise, so we decided to do another studio album in the meantime.”
“The Taking of Black Heart” was released in January by Small Stone Records. Small Stone has released five other Five Horse Johnson albums, starting with 1997’s “Double Down.” Prior to that, Five Horse Johnson recorded its first album, “Blues for Henry,” with former Toledo record label Sin Klub Entertainment.
Over the years, Five Horse Johnson has made a bit of a name for itself across the U.S. and Europe. The group’s music can be heard on several video game soundtracks — “MLB: The Bigs 2” and “Tony Hawk’s Underground,” for example — as well as television shows like “Sons of Anarchy” and “Dog the Bounty Hunter.” Most recently, the song “Soul Digger” was featured in the Billy Bob Thornton movie “The Baytown Outlaws.”
Five Horse has undergone many drummer changes since the beginning, but founding members Oblander, Brad Coffin (guitar) and Steve Smith (bass) still press on. They are now joined by ex-Big Chief guitarist Phil Durr, along with Clutch’s Jean-Paul Gaster on drums for the album.
Oblander said the writing process for “The Taking of Black Heart” brought the band into new territory, as a common theme eventually evolved.
“Brad and I wrote together a lot. It’s sort of a concept record. The whole thing is a cohesive piece. We decided it would be fun to do a storyline throughout the record. It gave us a chance to write about something other than booze and broads, which we ended up doing anyway.”
“The Taking of Black Heart” is about a character known as Black Heart Baby, a prostitute who Oblander describes as a “mean chick.” A Pecos Bill-type hired gun character is commissioned by a rich man to seek out the prostitute who broke his heart, then cut out her heart and bring it back to him.
“He has some misadventures along the way,” Oblander said. “The last song is called ‘Die in the River,’ so you maybe know how it ends.”
One track that stands out on the album is a cover of the Faces’ song “You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want to Discuss it).” Five Horse was joined by legendary Cheap Trick vocalist Robin Zander, who took on the vocals.
“We decided we were going to do this Faces cover, which didn’t really have anything to do with the concept of the record,” Oblander said. “I think it was Brad who said, ‘Hey, we should just call Robin Zander.’ We have a connection to Cheap Trick, and we sent it through the grapevine that we wanted Robin to do this song, and it turned out that he is a big Faces fan. He [recorded] it all in his own studio, and sent us the tapes.”
“The Taking of Black Heart” was recorded in Baltimore by J. Robbins (Jawbox, Government Issue) and in Detroit by Bill Kozy and Erik Maluchnik. The album is available through most major music retailers, including iTunes, as well as the Small Stone website, www.smallstone.com.
Tags: Brad Coffin, Eric Oblander, Five Horse Johnson, Jean-Paul Gaster, Mainstreet Bar & Grill, Phil Durr, Small Stone Records, Steve Smith, The Baytown Outlaws, The Taking of Black Heart, Underground Festival