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Johnny Max Band
"A Lesson I've Learned"
(Pour Soul Records)

Info & Reviews

Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)

Usually when I get a CD, it finds it's way to my player at least a couple of times, then it goes away for awhile, sometimes a little while, sometimes a long while. With the new Johnny Max Band CD, "A Lesson I've Learned", I have played it over half a dozen times now and I just don't see myself putting it away anytime soon. It is my first introduction to the Johnny Max Band music and I simply love it.

All the tracks on "A Lesson I've Learned", are a lot of fun to listen to, especially out at the BBQue with a bunch of your Rockin Blues Lovin friends, and by the way, make sure you know where the pause button is, because you are not going to want to miss anything on this CD.

Besides the Johnny Max Band's amazing instrumental talents, what really hooked me is the voice of Johnny Max himself. It's got that addictive almost gravely texture to it, that reminds me a lot of one of my favorite blues artists, Watermelon Slim. 

"A Lesson I've Learned" was and still is a complete joy to listen to, especially with others whom are hearing it for the first time. Their are a lot of great tracks on this CD, but the ones that I like the most are, A Lesson I've Learned, Down In History, We're Going To Do It (All Night Long), Going Down Standing Up, and When I Sing The Blues...

For those of you whom are not familiar with the Johnny Max Band, what are you waiting for? For those of you whom are, "A Lesson I've Learned" will not disappoint.

The Johnny Max Band has paid it's dues and is sending the lessons they have learned to all their loyal fans.

 

By Calvin Daniels

The Johnny Max Band comes to us out of southern Ontario, bringing with them a blues sound that has one foot solidly set in the rock genre, and the other in the traditions of the blues. From the opening Down In History you get the feeling these guys would be a great blues bar band on those nights you really want to party. You get that party feel just from the piano work of Martin Alex Aucoin on the song.

Johnny Max is the vocalist here, and offers up a smokey voice that has some miles on it, making it almost ideal for this boogie blues effort.
A Lesson I've Learned is Johnny Max's fourth recording, and you get the feeling he has learned his lessons well, at least in terms of his music. The CD cover has the look of a school notebook, with a few doodles of musicians and instruments, like a kid dreaming of the stage. Well Johnny Max has made it to the stage and learned his trade well. This CD has a workmanlike feel, blues from a band used to going bar to bar performing for the love of the music.

If you need a blues fix to lift your spirits, well get to the doctor and request 100 c.c.s of A Lesson I've Learned, cause this is the cure.
Songs such as the title cut, We're Gonna To Do It (All Night Long), Big Ol' Girls Need Some Lovin' Too, and Why I Sing the Blues ... for Joe, are what this CD is all about. Blues with soul, for the fun and love of playing.

You just know Johnny Max would be playing for free if he had too, and may well be buried with a microphone in his hand and a sound track in the coffin, so that he's ready to play for all the old friends he may meet along the way.

-- Previous Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 31, 2007 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

By David Barnard

In the past ten years, Canada has produced some of the best new blues recordings anywhere. Think Jim Byrnes, Sue Foley, Paul Reddick, Harrison Kennedy and Julian Fauth, to name but a few. This high standard of competition is helping to raise the bar and bring the best out in people. Judging by the new release from Port Credit’s Johnny Max, he’s ready to join the cream of the crop. Max is an expressive vocalist, someone who back in the day would’ve been called a “shouter.” He inhabits a song’s storyline, imbuing it with a strong dose of irony and a knowing “been there, done that” tone. Over 13 songs, including 11 originals written primarily by Max and keyboardist Martin Alex Aucoin, he sings of mistakes made, dreams and lies, obsessions and living in the Mississauga Delta, in case you were wondering where Port Credit is. The band, comprised of Aucoin, guitarist Teddy Leonard, bassist Garth Vogan and Duncan McBain on drums, are a supple, well oiled unit that enlivens every arrangement, whether it’s the Memphis fatback soul of “It’s Not My Fault,” the rocking ’60s R&B of “Going Down, Standing Up” or the New Orleans style funk of “Banks of the Credit,” featuring searing slide guitar and a lovely gospel piano bridge. Aucoin wins MVP, consistently adding excitement to each song, such as on the title track, a burbling Southern soul number where his combined B3 and Wurlitzer beautifully support Max’s wry lyrics and subdued vocal delivery. (Pour Soul)

Review by James Doran

What do you get when you cross a slightly mad Scots / Irishman with a guy who grew up in Etobicoke in the late 60s/70s listening to blues, pop, soul, rock ‘n roll and R&B? You get Johnny Max (aka McAneney), that’s what. Anyone who has seen this man play LIVE – or listened to his weekly Sunday Night Soul show on Toronto’s AM 1430 – knows how much he loves his music. When you see the Johnny Max Band perform it’s the full Monty – great sound from a tight, veteran backline supporting Johnny’s powerful vocals sung with passion and feeling – combined with a non-stop blast of jokes and impersonations (Sean Connery especially). It makes for a very entertaining night. If there’s another blues band out there that has as much fun as these guys – and gets the crowd feeling exactly the same way – please tell me! 

“A Lesson I’ve Learned” is the 4th album for the Johnny Max Band over the 12 years of their career. Not to take anything away from the others, but this one is unquestionably the best for my money. I think it’s a serious contender for Best Blues CD of the Year. Whether it comes from the band being together longer, the improved songwriting, Johnny’s growing maturity on vocals, the addition of one of Toronto’s finest guitarists Teddy Leonard and the symbiosis he has with Martin Aucoin’s superb keyboards, the solid bottom end from Garth Vogan on bass and Duncan “Army Boots” McBain on drums – whatever, this band just keeps getting better! I liked this album from start to finish beginning with the fun cover – a replica of the Hilroy Exercise Book older Ontario public school students will instantly recognize (Bored of Education, Borough of Etobicoke). Johnny’s the kind of student the teachers must have hated but the rest of the class loved. 

Eleven of the thirteen songs on “A Lesson I’ve Learned” are originals – mainly Aucoin/McAneney collaborations – which makes this album even more impressive. Each one has its unique charm but my favourites are definitely: 

‘Down in History’ – the opening track. Talk about hot out of the gate, a powerful rockin’ blues tune featuring sweet guitar from teddy, lovely runs on the piano by Martin and powerful singing by Johnny with whimsical lyrics about getting cleared out by his ex. 

‘Banks of the Credit (The Mississauga Delta)’ – a bouncy strutter with a New Orleans feel that opens with a Keith Richards-like guitar riff by Teddy and just rolls on from there.

‘Greezin’ – Johnny’s vocals are perfect on this instrumental! The B3 by Martin is complimented so nicely by Teddy’s jazz tone guitar – a ‘sail on’ tune perfect for a sunny day out on the boat.

‘Jack & Jill’ – a delightful swing, bebop finer-poppin’ tune in the style of Louis Jordan that made me think of the late, great Dutch Mason. 

‘Big Ol’ Girls Need Some Lovin’ Too!’ – a funky, bouncy tribute to the larger members of the opposite sex featuring naughty lyrics by Johnny and nice riffs by all members of the band, especially Garth on bass. 

‘Why I Sing the Blues’ – a well-done version of the B.B. King classic – one of my favourites – that honors the original, yet has a distinct Johnny Max feel to it. Once again the musicianship from all members of the band is superb. 

In all, a first-class production from one of Canada’s best and hardest working blues bands. These guys play all over Ontario on a regular basis so watch the blues news for when they’re in a town near you and go see ‘em. And pick up the CD – it’s the best way to ‘learn your lesson’! 

James Doran, Ottawa Blues Society Magazine www.choosetheblues.ca 

Review by Bryon Tosoff

Johnny Max has delivered something special on his "A Lesson I've Learned" release. The theme he has chosen resonates throughout the album and he lays it all on the table for us to experience his stories that he tells you about him and his life and draws you in with his soulful rich vocals. He has some of the best blues musicians in Canada in his band. You mix this talent with Johnny's energy, stir in his voice and a dash of the sparkling lyrics and you have a blend of blues and soul music that tastes just right. And that's a fact. This album definitely deserves a Maple Blues nomination or two! Aucoin and McAneney (Johnny Max) have crafted some great tunes and Johnny vocals are dynamic, rich and well performed.

My favourite is track #5 in which Johnny Max delivers one of the finest soul-gospel renditions you could ask for in "Write Your Name". This is a brilliantly written song and fits the vocal style of Maxie boy "fo' sho" and I can almost hear Ray Charles wishing he was around to be able to do this number himself. Beautiful piece of work boys. Well done! Teddy Leonard's guitar playing on this tune is sweet indeed and he is absolutely superb throughout the entire album. Aucoin's piano playing is magical and at times absolutely stunning. His grasp of the many facets of keyboard performance throughout the album displays a wealth of experience and insight that few players have mastered as well as he has.

The Rhythm Section of Guitarist Teddy Leonard, Bassist Garth Vogan and percussionist Duncan McBain coupled with Johnny's wonderful singing and Aucoin's mastery at the Keyboard is surely going to have this cd spinning for some time to come.

**** out of 5
Brilliant

Review by Bryon Tosoff
Voodoohead Productions

Review by Brian Harman

This very entertaining musical interlude is brought to you by Johnny and the boys all the way from South Ontario, Canada, a sometimes unfairly under-rated and untapped musical goldmine, though the recent slew of blues from the Dominion proves that there is a rich vein of (blue) musical talent there. Ranging from rip-roaring swashbuckling, soulful R'n'B guitar to moochingly sleazy New Orleans piano led blues, what more could you want? What more do you need? Whether slow, fast or meandering, Johnny's rough-edged, sleepy soul-filled voice rallies his troops on to and into the groove. We are not, thankfully, going to some inane boogie wonderland but we are certainly experiencing some very exciting no-nonsense original music. Here we have thirteen tuneful attention-grabbers, no brash, here one minute/ gone the next fireworks, but simply subtle, deftly played foot-tapping, indoor carpet sliding fun in southern US style, a little warm Texas thunder, a little solid Memphis groove, and some blue, blue songs. The band credit is deserved as keyboards, guitar and rhythm section all play their part in providing us with this aural pleasure. Well worth a listen or two!

Brian Harman, Blues Matters


Review by Vincente "Harmonica" Zumel Le Hora del Blues, Spain
 
A nice, joyful good album that singer and percussion player Johnny Max brings us, offering thirteen songs that move among blues, rhythm and blues, southern swamp and soul. The supporting band give a passionate work that never sounds monotonous and in fact they create a solid basis to make Johnny enjoy with his natural and specially convincing sense of humour on custom made songs where he gives us the best of himself. You will find Martin Alex Aucoin on keyboards, Teddy Leonard on guitar, Garth Vogan on bass and Duncan McBain on drums. An album that, as Max says, is like an exercise book Johnny Max has learned by heart. GREAT. 


Review from rootstime.be

This Canadian band from south Ontario has just finished its fourth CD. They bring blues and roots music loaded with first class influences that on top of that are brought with much energy (spirit). One of their ingredients is in their sound of the New Orleans Memphis style, but a slug of rock and a still larger part of the blues makes the mix complete. Johnny Max is an extremely strong singer who has earned the nickname of Motion Machine on the podium of many festivals. Another important member is guitar player Ted Leonard, but more about him later. Drummer Duncan McBain, base player Bruce Longman and key man Martin Alex Aucoin, (who for the largest part made the compositions), make this excellent band complete.

The CD starts right away rather strongly with "Down in History", a number that opens with Keith Richards guitar sounds of Ted Leonard, while Johnny Max, with his Delbert McClinton-like song style and voice make you perk up your ears. In the next number, "Banks of the Credit", that is possibly even stronger, we get the Stones meet Little Feat and The Band, in which Ted Leonard sounds like Keith Richards and in the next moment he seemingly easily produces unique slight guitar sounds of Lowell George, while Johnny’s voice calls up memories of the top days of The Band. And so one strong number after another.

The total disc has a high McClinton content, to say it shortly, while a number of songs carry the stamp of the sound of The Band (among others, "A Lesson I’ve Learned"). "Write Your Name" is again in the best of Ray Charles tradition. Pianist songwriter Aucoin shows himself a worthy follower of Professor Longhair and Doctor John in "It’s Not My Fault". In "Greezin" is the combination Stax/Muscle Shoals perfectly determined coming to a splendid instrumental. The cover "Have Mercy" by Don Covey and "Why I sing The Blues" by B.B. King get beautiful arrangements so that they are not less than the original versions. Even a countdown rhyme like "Jack and Jill" reconstructed to a steaming New Orleans shuffle is no problem for the Johnny Max Band. In short, this is an excellent disc of a good band that regrettably I have only just discovered, and that I have to admit with shame on my face. But better late than never. Nobody is perfect, although ..... Johnny Max?

"There's no question that A Lesson I've Learned represents swampy blues and R & B at its finest and many of our blues listeners certainly agree."

Eric Cohen
WAER Radio
Syracuse, NY


Johnny Max Band "A Lesson I've Learned" (*** 1/2). Max delivers blue-eyed Soul singing with a slight Southern drawl (but he's from way up North!) atop an eclectic mélange of Soul, Blues, Jazz, Rock flavors. Max on vocals, Martin Alex Aucoin on keys, Teddy Leonard on guitars, Garth Vogan on bass and Duncan McBain on drums morph from Booker T & The MGs ("Greezin'") to Delbert McClinton ("Down In History") with ease. The title cut is a superb midtempo Soul coaster with a familiar melody (but I can't place it) that sorta reminds me of another great song that deserved more attention (Larry Garner's "When The Blues Turn Black"). The bar band boogies "We're Gonna Do It (All Night Long)" and "Jack & Jill" are fun lighthearted fluff and Don Covay's "Have Mercy" is convincing laidback Soul

www.Bluescritic.com


From Blues Review, issue 110 (Feb/Mar 2008) Tom Hyslop 

"A Lesson I've Learned" (Pour Soul 0023) begins generically but hits its stride after a few songs with the title track (gorgeous Southern R&B), "Write Your Name" (soulful piano based slow blues), "It's Not My Fault" (funky soul stew) and "If That Ain't True" (New Orleans Rumba-blues), all ideal launching pads for Johnny Max's warm, Levon Helm-esque vocals. The Jumping "Jack & Jill" and a cover of Don Covay's "Have Mercy" are other high points. With secret weapon Martin Aucoin (keys) and the understated guitar of Teddy Leonard, The Johnny Max Band is one tough soul outfit. 

Review by John Taylor

Given they amount to little more than a few grams of aluminum and plastic, it’s astonishing just how much personality certain CD’s contain. Case in point, “A Lesson I’ve Learned,” the fourth effort from a newly-revamped Johnny Max Band. 

Max, a veteran who’s kicked around Toronto’s club scene for years, delivers a passionate mix of blues and soul that virtually defines what a great bar band should sound like. From the open salvo of “Down In History,” a rollicking romp that borrows from the Delbert McClinton school of roadhouse R&B, to the funked-up final notes of “Why I Sing The Blues,” one of only two covers here, Max and company stomp through a set that fairly bursts with energy, enthusiasm, and personality aplenty.

Keyboard master Martin Aucoin accounts for the bulk of the songwriting (with help on most from co-writer John McAneney, aka Mr. Max himself). Influences are obvious on occasion, but that’s all part of the fun – the song structures may be familiar, but Max and company put their individual stamp on every note here. Tunes range from the jaunty party groove of “We’re Gonna Do It (All Night Long)” to the wry and resigned wisdom of “(You’re) A Lesson I’ve Learned.” “Banks Of The Credit” proves the mud in the Mississauga Delta oozes just as much funk as that of the Mississippi, while “Greezin’” is a breezy instrumental that provides a bit of mid-set-mellow before the energy level gets cranked up again with the pure rock ‘n’ roll of “Jack And Jill”. The boys do a bang-up job on Don Covay’s “Have Mercy”, and tackle the irresistibly catchy “Big Ol’ Girls Need Some Lovin’ Too” with tongue firmly in cheek.

Production is stellar, the sound clean and crisp yet retaining an organic feel that hints at largely live-in-the-studio performances. Max delivers his lines with gruff, blue-eyed soul and Aucoin, whether on B3, Wurlitzer, or piano, is nothing short of brilliant throughout. Guitarist Teddy Leonard is equally adept at stinging rhythmic stabs and clean, uncluttered leads, and the rhythm section of drummer Duncan McBain and bassist Garth Vogan provide a rock-solid foundation built on obviously intuitive interplay.

If slick and commercial is your bag you’d do better elsewhere. But if you like your music with high spirits, sweaty honesty, and lots of personality – the kind where you can actually hear real people having fun making music together – this disc is an absolute gem.

Highly recommended!


About Johnny Max Band

You are guaranteed a good time with The Johnny Max Band. A hard Working Rockin’ Boogie band that has been a fixture of the Southern Ontario Festival, Blues & R&B scene for over 12 years. With "The One & Only" Ted Leonard (guitar), Nashville veteran Martin Alex Aucoin (piano) and a rhythm section that includes, Bruce Longman & Duncan McBain. There is no better place to be, than at a Johnny Max Band Show. Having just completed their 4th CD, "A Lesson I've Learned" they are showcasing their new line up all over Southern Ontario.

With their mixture of Muscle Shoals/Stax Soul, traditional Chicago style Blues a bit of old fashioned country and, as always, a dopple of R’n’B, they are a crowd pleasing, hand clapping, get yer feet movin’, get up outta yer chair, kind of band, no matter what or where they are playing. They are the sound that makes them The Hardest Working Band Around"

They are now playing at the many Festivals around Southern Ontario & Western New York. You gotta come out and see why they have shared the stage with the likes of Downchild, Morgan Davis, Mel Brown, Jack DeKeyzer, Fathead, Jeff Healey and David Rotundo, and the list grows. From Niagara to The Gaspe, there's only one thing to say, You are guaranteed a good time when The Johnny Max Band is here to play!!!!

JOHNNY MAX

Johnny is a soulful singer whose respect, and passion for all types of music is evident. He is also a brilliant entertainer who has audiences thoroughly enjoying each show. Johnny Max has built up a solid reputation as one of those guys who gives 110% and is one of the most action-packed and satisfying entertainers around. Johnny takes to performing like a fish to water, a perpetual motion machine, galvanizing his spicy blend of Stax/Volt, Atlantic, Funk, and Blues into frenzied heights, often propelling himself into the audience’s eager arms.


DUNCAN MCBAIN

Duncan started off playing with the Good Bros. and Canadian Zephyr. He then formed a band with Garth Bourne from Canadian Zephyr. In 1984 Dunc was introduced to Morgan Davis by a mutual friend. His straight ahead style and impeccable timing grew into two years of playing with Morgan, which led to playing with Michael Pickett, Dutch Mason, Hock Walsh, and various members of the Downchild Blues Band. While playing in the late 80s with The Headhunters, Dunc met Tom Barlow and played with Tom for the next 14 years. Dunc is currently the drummer for Stratochief, The Johnny Max Band, The Grant Lyle Band, and The Vaughn Passmore Trio. Duncan’s claim to fame (and he’ll make sure to tell you) is that the McBean tartan flag on the moon was delivered by Allan Bean from the Apollo 12 mission.


TEDDY LEONARD

Teddy Leonard has been a guitarist in the Canadian roots scene for more than 25 years. As a member of the seminal roots collective "Fathead" he has recorded 5 CD's and garnered two Juno nominations {taking home the prize in 1999 for "Best Blues Recording"}. The next year he was honored as "Guitarist of the Year" at the Maple Blues Awards. As support for Handy and Juno nominee Paul Reddick he has toured Europe and Canada in recent years. Stints with Colin Linden, Morgan Davis and Pork Belly Futures have taken Teddy to New York City, Memphis, Austin and Washington D C. While recording and playing have been his mainstays composing has landed him on many other artist's discs and soundtracks. Having shared the stage with BB King, Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko of The Band Teddy continues to be in demand as a performer.


MARTIN AUCOIN

“Man, he can, outright, play” is what you hear about Martin Aucoin. He doesn’t just play, He lets you hear what he’s saying. Martin has played keyboards in numerous country and R&B bands around Toronto, including Morgan Davis, and Jack DeKeyzer, before moving to Nashville in 1990. He then toured with BJ Thomas for a year and a half. He also played on recording sessions for George Strait, Garth Brooks, Confederate Railroad, and John Michael Montgomery. He has played live with Larry Carlton, Tony Joe White, Bo Diddley, Ricky Van Shelton, Alan Jackson, Alex Harvey, the Drifters, Mark O'Connor, as well as having a 4 year gig at the Grand Ole Opry with Jimmy C. Newman, the great Cajun singer.


BRUCE LONGMAN

Bruce Longman is best described as "so far in the pocket, it doesn't get any deeper". He has been a working musician for 27 years in Canada with stints in the U.S. and as far away as Japan. After playing for many years in the northern Ontario circuit , Bruce joined the delta/roots band Slowpoke with Eddie Baltimore where he moved from guitar to bass and stayed for 10 years. He is also a part of the Desperate Sidemen with Bill Candy and Gary Taylor. He has shared the stage with many of Toronto's finest performers including Eddie Baltimore, Chuck Jackson, Vigil Scott, Michael Fonfara, Steve Grisbrook, Rod Phillips, Bill Candy, Jimmy Bowskill, Kevin Higgins, Tony Springer, Penny Skolski, Wickens/Night and many, many others to mention. He sings like a bird, too!!!

Accolades

2008 JUNO AWARD NOMINATION BLUES ALBUM OF THE YEAR - A Lesson I've Learned

3 Maple Blues Award Nominations for the Johnny Max Band!!!

2007 Recording of the Year - A Lesson I've Learned

2007 Songwriter of the Year - Martin Alex Aucoin & Johnny Max

2007 Electric Act of the Year - Johnny Max Band

"A Lesson I've Learned" The Blind Lemon Top Twenty Canadian Blues Albums of 2007 ...#4 ...CHMR Radio

Johnny Max Band "A Lesson I've Learned" top 100 CD (#18) August 2007...Real Blues Magazine 

Johnny Max Band "Ride & Roll" top 100 CD (#27) issue #30...Real Blues Magazine
Kevin Higgins Top Canadian Guitarist..#2....Real Blues Magazine
The Johnny Max Band...Best Live Act/Central Canada...Real Blues Magazine
Top Ten Canadian Blues Releases of 2005.. #5...Livin Blues.com
Top Ten Canadian CD 2005 #4..Terry Parsons, DJ Blind Lemon Blues, CHMR 93.5FM,NFLD

"(You're) A Lesson I've Learned" - Johnny Max Band
Johnny Max Band perform the title track from their new CD

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