When I was a young long-haired rocker DJ, a CD came across my desk by a band called Brother Cane.  It was both heavy, and, had heart underneath. I hadn't really heard anything like it.  But like it I did.  Then in 1995 their next album, Seeds, dropped.  A departure so wide from their debut they showed a kind of aural versatility reminiscent of Beatles albums.  Damon Johnson, Brother Cane's founder, writer, guitarist and singer was just doing what came naturally.

Versatility became a running theme with Johnson as Brother Cane dissolved, and Johnson brought his talents on tour throughout the cycle of rock and roll's cruel stages. Most famously, Johnson toured with Alice Cooper for 6 years, during which time he was probably mentored in life, if not so challenged musically.  In 2011 he joined up with the re-boot of Thin Lizzy, which evolved into an opportunity to write when they became Black Star Riders.

This background was the scene in my mind as I anxiously awaited Damon's first collection of solo material, an EP called ECHO, which was released this week.

Versatility is again the soup du jour for Johnson, and he expertly spins from heavy to heavy-hearted in this 5 song tease that makes me think he's got a ton, a TON of stuff to pick from.  I picture that scene from 'Purple Rain' where the Kid is tearing through all of his old man's music in the basement.  That is Damon Johnson's mind, from which these 5 songs appear.

'Dead' starts off the disc, and is anything but.  A driving rock tune with guitar so raw it's like pulling twine through your hand too fast.  Johnson has found a comfortable place in his career, and stops here to look back on those he may have lost, or wonder about where others are going.  This song is a mosh pit masterpiece.  'Nobody Usin'' takes some of the tricks he picked up with Thin Lizzy/Black Star Riders using some great dual lead guitar and vocal effects to give this song a depth.  You feel like you're floating and sinking at the same time, but the backbeat brings you back every time.  You could play this on any rock station in the country.

The next 2 on the disc find Johnson uncovering some personal, painful stuff.  'The Waiting Kills Me' is my favorite because he so easily drifts between different sounds in the same song (Like Brother Cane meets Queensryche in an alley behind Kenny Wayne Shepherd's house)  with lyrics we all feel but can't put into words. 'Scars' is every Monday morning Facebook meme put to music.  It is a beautiful, hopeful song from a guy who has been there and back.

Wherever this EP took you in it's first 4 songs, song 5 Johnson gives you right back to you.  'Just Move On' is less about leaving, and more about accepting where you've come to, and how you got there.  This collection of tunes is long overdue, and only makes me salivate at the thought of a complete Damon Johnson solo album and tour.  Full band, full bore.

Go get this record, and crank it up in the car.

Buy it online at DamonJohnson.com.