The Johnny Mac Band – Ace
The first single from The Johnny Mac Band’s second album Ace is the title cut of the release and an excellent introduction to what is certain to be an important moment in this band’s history. “Ace” is the kind of single that most bands dream of being able to lead off a new album – it exemplifies all the best qualities of the band’s initial release, Destination Memphis, while showing continued growth in the band’s songwriting ability to impart more and more of themselves to their original songwriting. This is a critical distinction between The Johnny Mac Band and a number of other bands mining the dependable veins of blues, soul, R&B, and rock is that Johnny Mac and his creative partners bring something of themselves to each performance rather than relying on a variety of poses and clichés that pander to the audience but offer them little more.
Johnny Mac’s guitar makes its presence increasingly felt throughout the duration of the song. He’s, initially, content to blend in and the song’s first quarter does an exceptionally strong job of establishing the tune’s primary elements before shifting into another gear after that. The steadily mounting musical intensity from the midway portion on makes this a more rewarding performance as it develops. Mac’s fluid talent for moving back and forth between unadorned blues guitar runs and scintillating slide guitar passages enriches the song even more and strikes just the right balance. It helps, of course, that Mac has such a powerful instrumental presence. He has that classic warm brown sound with a combined approach of attack and feel that will appeal to both longtime admirers of the style and newcomers alike. The production certainly sets him up in the front of the mix, but it never depreciates the contributions from other musicians in the band.
The lyrics are, likely, the weakest part of their package. This reflects more on the merits of the performance’s musical and vocal merits rather than reflective of any deep flaws with the words. Mac certainly makes the most of the metaphors a title like “Ace” makes available for him, but it’s never to such a degree that it sabotages the track. Predictability isn’t always a bad thing. It helps, naturally, that his emotive vocal gets these things over so artfully. The passion at play in the song, however, makes the words and music all the more meaningful. The mix of biting guitar, solid rhythm section play, and a powerhouse production highlighting all the song’s best qualities make this a great introduction to the band’s second album. The Johnny Mac Band have earned their stripes in a multitude of ways and songs like this serve notice that they are far from done. “Ace” hits listeners in the gut and keeps them entertained throughout the course of the song.