Caleb Johnson came to us via American Idol, but don’t let they fool you into dismissing him because that would be a huge mistake on your part. Caleb’s debut album came out in 2014 very quickly after winning said singing competition and the album did pretty well, but the record company didn’t know what to do with him and Caleb was rather unhappy with them and with the album as he was forced to do songs he didn’t necessarily like. After a long battle and finally breaking free from that contract, Caleb is back 5 years later with the album he wanted to make as his first album. This is the real Caleb Johnson.
Caleb Johnson now has a band called ‘The Ramblin’ Saints’ and what a backing band they are. The album shows every influence that has impacted his life from classic rock, southern rock, soul and even a little funk all with one of the most powerful voices in rock today on full display. If you really had to classify this album, it is straight-up, pure rock & roll.
The album opens with “Hanging On” with a nice Hammond Organ and then a build up until it rocks out which is pure classic rock in style and mixed with some lovely ladies that do the backing vocals on this (and other songs) that also adds a little soulful touch to the song.
The next song, “Solid Gold”, has a Rival Sons vibe probably because it was co-written with Jay Buchanan of the band along with Blair Daily. It is bluesy piece and that guitar sounds a lot like the new Rival Sons album which is a very good thing.
“Sugar” comes out you with a rapid fire bass line and then a cool guitar riff before those towering vocals. There is a cool vibe and groove that now brings a little funk element to his sound. It is a blast and a standout of a song.
Now we are in Souther Rock territory with “Born and Raised” which also features those glorious women on the backing vocals that take the chorus to another level.
We slow a little with “Better Off Alone” bringing us our first ballad. The song and his voice are soulful and he has such a great tone to it.
And if that wasn’t slow enough for you, you have “Blind” which is a true showcase to that vocal power. He makes you feel everything the song is trying to make you feel. It is blues, it is soulful, it is fantastic!
Things pick back up with “Hanging With the Band” that takes you back to the 70’s with its sound and is a feel good tune. I love the little references to old 70’s songs thrown in from some of his influences. The song is also featured at the end with as acoustic version which is really great as well. I think I like the full band sound better, but both are good.
“Ride with the Devil” brings that Rival Sons sound with that gritty guitar opening and the song really rocks out with a soulful sound from those damn fine backing vocals from the band.
The album ends with “It’s Not the End” which it really isn’t because of the acoustic version of the prior song actually is the final song. This song opens with a piano and what you think is a ballad is a lot more powerful than that. It is sounds like a call to arms to rise up and fight to survive.
Caleb has been very busy as he has been working with TSO and even doing a tour with Meatloaf’s band singing those Meatloaf songs and let me tell you I don’t think they could have gotten anyone better to do that as he has the chops to handle Meat’s songs.
But it is his solo stuff that interests me the most and he full-on delivered with this gem. He stayed true to his roots and is showing the world who Caleb Johnson is and that you should stand up and take notice. I know I did. There isn’t a bad song in the bunch and I would have to give it a 4.25 out 5.0 Stars. One of the few albums to catch my attention this year and it should be catching yours if you want to hear some rock & roll that is true rock & roll. Plus, if you want the best voice in rock, this might be it…if not, it should be up there with them!! Give it a try and let me know what you think!!