An Open Door

John Nelson "An Open Door" 2021 An Open Door, John Nelson's latest solo CD (and 5th album overall), is a sweet, meditative, soulful work. Its lullaby-like quality comes into sharper focus with the awareness that the album is dedicated to the children at the Seattle's Children's Hospital and Medical Center, at whose bedsides he performs. Nelson is a composer and multi-instrumentalist with an array of musical lineages, from rock to jazz to folk; here he includes the tamboura and harmonium to add texture and layers to the acoustic guitar - and even the occasional surprise of a flugelhorn ("Turquoise Sky"). Each of the eight pieces on offer has a unique voice and range of colors, from the gentle ("Slumber"; "Winding River"); the moody "Indigo Moon," where his fleet fingerwork cascades like water rushing downriver over stones; and "Ambrosia," with playful experiments in tempo. Perhaps loveliest are Latin-infused "Waltz of the Wind" and the deeply emotional "Invitation," in which Nelson displays gorgeous tone and resonance. On An Open Door Nelson creates a soothing atmosphere that surely will bring joy and comfort to ailing children--as well as an immersive experience to any lover of acoustic guitar. (The album was made possible with an artist grant from 4 Culture in Seattle.) © Céline Keating

File under; Americana Folk. Listen carefully.

What do Robert Cray, The Posies and King Sunny Ade have in common? They've all been produced or had albums engineered by John Nelson. Now there's a thing.

Nelson's latest album brings his considerable talents to bear on his own songs and excellent they are too. What I specifically like about this album is the variety. Nelson brings in the Native American flute player Gentle Thunder on the epic 'Medicine Creek' which provides a rich ambiance that evokes the sun kissed plains of Arizona or New Mexico.

'There's No Right Way To Do Me Wrong' swaggers with its blues vibe and honky tonk piano and instrumental 'Waltz Indigo' sways gently in the breeze. 'Oklahoma Saturday Night' brings in a tiny bit of bluegrass; but not too much - we don't want that do we? And 'til My Work Is Done' is a simple prayer set to a resonator guitar - no more. Simple is good. Oh yes. 'I Found Myself In You' may not be the most perfectly sung song ever, but that's part of its charm. 'Waiting For The Weekend' also demonstrates Nelson's unwillingness to reach perfection with his vocal range, but again it's all the better for it. There are 13 self penned songs on "Vagabond" and they're all unique in the way they've been written and presented. I'm not going to list them all here, but I recommend you get a copy of the CD and check them out for yourself. You won't be disappointed.

Reviewers Score: 9 out of 10

Rootstime (Belgium)

If you are on harmonica and acoustic guitar today you are too soon compared with Neil Young and Bob Dylan, the legendary icons in this style. If you put music up there in the folk and country genre, you cannot rush these two singer-songwriters around.

With his debut album "Soliloquy" from 2003 and the second album "Tengo Ranchito" from 2008 Seattle, Washington resident John Nelson is already safe in this musical environment, nestled with his latest album "Vagabond", there is no reason to be found to revise this situation. With the thirteen songs on this album it confirms all the good that has already been quoted in the press following his previous CD's.

This musical trip through fascinating travel stories and a varied loves life delivers some very pretty songs. With the sounds of violins on "By The Light Of The Moon" and "I Found Myself In You" both are very beautifully arranged pearls from this track list. 'Gentle Thunder' plays Native American Flute on the seven and a half minute song "Medicine Creek" in a true story about the signing of the historically important peace treaty in 1854 between various Native American Indian tribes.

The album title track "Vagabond" is again a typical folk song with harmonica in the style of Bob Dylan or Neil Young at the time of his album "Harvest". Then follows the lightly swinging country rocker "There's No Right Way To Do Me Wrong" on a descending love affair, a song in which a prominent place was reserved for the sounds of a honky-tonk piano played by Murl Allen Sanders and the female vocalist Tammy Frost.

John Nelson has been playing acoustic guitar since his fourteenth birthday and 40 years later the listener is treated to his mastery of the instrument to hear the beautiful instrumental waltz "Waltz Indigo" while Jon Parry on the fiddle adds additional atmospheric sounds.

Another highlight is offered in a mix of folk and Bluegrass with "My Sweet Love" and the waltzing two-step "Oklahoma Saturday Night" on which Doug Jernigan on pedal steel excels and harmony vocalist Tammy Frost a second time glitters.

John Nelson does on Vagabond no trouble to all the attention to himself and he leaves room for all his musical collaborators in turns to be in the foreground of the recording and sings his handsome compositions in a peaceful manner.

"Freefalling", "If You Were Here Today" accompanied by mandolin and the acoustic closing track "'til My Work Is Done" deserve as much a special mention in this review, because there are no weak songs in this very fine CD, which remains in it's entirety, as a true feast for the ears as may be considered.


Real Roots Cafe

John Nelson is a singer-songwriter from Seattle, USA. He started playing guitar when he was 14 and has never really let down. With 'Vagabond' he presents to us his fourth solo CD since 2003. There eleven musicians play a role on the CD, starring drummer Chris Leighton (6 songs) and vocalist Jane Milford (also six tracks, they play and sing for some time with John). Fiddle (Barbara Lamb both 'Asleep at the Wheel "and" Sweethearts of the Rodeo ") on violin we hear six songs in total, almost half of the total (13, all originals). On pedal steel and dobro, we hear another familiar name, Doug Jernigan (two numbers). But it's especially John himself who sets the tone on guitars, bass, mandolin, lap steel, harmonium, harmonica, keyboards, percussion and vocals. He also provided the string arrangements in "By the Light of the Moon 'and' I found Myself in You'. The music on the CD, almost a full hour, sounds of folk and country through folk-grass (in strings dipped ballads and waltzes, including an instrumental) to New Orleans swamp ("Waiting for the Weekend"). Special Mention: "Medicine Creek", a brutal description of the poor and unreliable behavior (compared to the natives of course) of the 'White people' in the middle of the 19th century, with a leading role for 'Gentle Thunder' on her native Indian flute ':' The heartbeat of the Ancestors beats in the wind, the echoes of their words ring true again. That treaty stole a way of life when it lay claim, the sacred ground we're standing on has never been the same ". Beautifully done, a more than 7 minute charge!

"Vagabond" is an outright contender for my top-10 list of 2012. Great CD, lots of variety, great coaching, great songs. Americana at its best, mostly acoustic.

Posted by Fred Schmale | CD reviews

Real Roots Cafe

Rootsy.NU (Sweden)

Best right now, according to Johan Anne Torp

John Nelson ~ Vagabond (Mystery Bay) John Nelson is a veteran in the music business as a producer and more. "Vagabond" is only his third album, it is a very strong successor to the great "Tengo Ranchito" from 2007. We are offered mostly campfire ballads a bit in the vein of Neil Young, around the "Harvest" album. The music is beautifully laid-back and John Nelson's somewhat fragile voice fits just perfectly for the song material.

In my world, John Nelson with "Vagabond" is one of this year's big positive surprises.


Victory Review
Acoustic Music Magazine

John Nelson producer, songwriter, performer combines all his skills on this CD. John plays guitars, bass, mandolin, lap steel, resonator, harmonium, harmonica, keyboards, percussion and wrote the string arrangements. Other notable musicians join him: Jon Parry and Barbara Lamb on fiddle; and on the classical side, Nicola Reilly and Erica Johansen on violin; Jennifer Ellison on cello. Doug Jernigan plays pedal steel and dobro. Chris Leighton plays drums. Other voices provide backing—Jane Milford and Tammy Frost. The title track ‘Vagabond’ is soulful and poetic, “He’s still waiting on that ghost train, the refuge of the road. Someday he’ll find his peace, and fate will lead him home.” Next, sounding very much like an old Elvis tune, through smoky reverb, John belts out ‘There’s No Right Way To Do Me Wrong’. ‘By The Light Of The Moon’ is ragged with pain. “That was, many years ago, and now sister is gone, Father too, but the wisdom of his words like a talisman, lives on and on.” There are harmonies but without great precision—this gives it ‘live’ effect. ‘Medicine Creek’ begins with Native American flute played by Gentle Thunder. “White men came and they decreed, Put pen on parchment down on Medicine Creek.” This is a song of empathy. ‘Waltz Indigo’ is an instrumental. Couched on a crisp bed of acoustic guitar, the clear melody is pleasant. The double stops enrich the simplicity—a very nice touch. ‘I Found Myself in You’ continues the acoustic guitar leads, “There was a Carolina moon rising in the southern sky. When I laid eyes on her that summers eve…” These are very personal songs and it feels like John Nelson understates the vocal lines letting the words do most of the work. ‘Waiting for the Weekend’ conjures images of the boats and outboards and the let it all hang weekends of youth, “Take a stroll under the blue moon shining. Tonight she’s mine all mine.” ‘Jezebel’ begins with haunting fiddle. ‘My Sweet Love’ is pretty straightforward in the lyrics, “Love grows sweeter like fruit on …” the instrumentals here from Barbara Lamb on fiddle and Doug Jernigan are especially nice. ‘Oklahoma Saturday Night’ is the best example of John’s lyrics “No one knew if cousin Ray would show. Some called him crazy, said he’s too far gone. Since the war stole a piece of his soul. There’s mine field he’s still walking on.” This isn’t fancy, just very real. ‘Freefalling’, ‘If You Were Here Today’ and ‘Til My Work is Done’ complete this collection. The guitar work and instrumental touches are quite interesting. It ain’t perfect and maybe that’s why I like it. [J.W. McClure]

Victory Review

Tengo Ranchito

John Nelson delivers each song with a calm, almost moist vocal that draws a little from Paul Simon, an accent-less Graham Nash, and a gentle Neil Young. His voice is elegantly calming as it and the harmonies melt into the disciplined guitar picking and tender band. It all feels so effortless, as it floats out of Nelson and his band. Tengo Ranchito, Nelson's 2007 release succeeds in gently, beautifully squeezing out your breath.

-- Jeff Weiss, Miles of Music (Mystery Bay)

Wow, what a good record. Old hand John Nelson sounds great, the playing is crisp, and the songs are endlessly engaging. It's nearly Country Rock, with the addition of drums and some brushes across a Tele and an Epi archtop on several tunes. The one cover, "Satisfied Mind", and the lead off "Small Town Girl" rock pretty well too, but while the whole record maintains a good groove, Nelson usually gets the job done acoustically. The title cut is an intricate story, and the next song, "Light On The Shore" is hushed and hopeful. It just gets better from there - one dreamy mix of marvelous musicianship mated to thoughtfully wrought stories after another. And whereas Nelson's last outing, a duet with Max Paul Schwennsen, was an exuberantly rough record of tub-thumpin' and fishin' harmonies, Tengo Ranchito is spankin' clean and Nelson works hard to get things just so. Oh, Boy does he!

- Tom Petersen Victory Review Acoustic Music Magazine- (November 2007)

John Nelson is by my knowledge a new name. The web learns me that it round a, everything older man goes that in 2003 an instrumentale plate made, (recorded in a kinderziekenhuis in Seattle), and a duo plate plate disc with Max Paul Schwennssen. John makes acoustic, in folk soaked music that strengthen does think of the years 70 singer-songwriters to drawer Jackson Browne, Terence Boylan, Graham Nash… John has a soft voice that sounds as if they not through the life drawn is. He brings acoustic splendor songs that for a large divide the same structure have. John on acoustic guitars and whispered singing (its voice does at Eugene Ruffolo think), a soft basis, an instrument an accent to lay (violin, piano, harmonica..) and mostly Jane Milford as second voice. This works in the title number with a beautiful violin as inkleuring. It works certainly also in single other numbers. Only works a succession of numbers that so similar handles as a valiumpil. After single numbers, the attention sleeps away and hope you actual on a sturdy guitar or a surprising turn in a number. Totally on the end, there is an attempt till plain fizzy drink-tempo with She's Lucky. Radios can set Ruby & Pearl on their playlist because of the beautiful dobro and violin. For fans of All Steward justest then again Sail Away with a the guitar in the principal part. There on this plate well single numbers are that I see will gladly once through stronger singers get coverd. For lovers of soft, acoustic music.
- (LD) MazzMuzikas

Only weeks ago we received an email from John Nelson with the question of whether his 'Tengo Ranchito 'we could not review. For me he was unknown John and I first went web 'surfing' to see what information could be obtained. Usually John Nelson is playing acoustic guitar on this album but he did call on Jane Milford (BG vocals), Chris Leighton (drums), Jeff Simmons (Piano) and Bella Trio (violin). After the first show to have heard of this album was my initial reaction ... wow. A mix of Neil Young and Bob Dylan and for me there may be Eagles in a pinch. Country and Folk are mixed together with beautiful poetic texts and these are all from the pen of John himself. Certainly not in a loud 'Barrel House' presentation, let alone at a festival where beautiful immediately goes into the fog. No, John Nelson you should you to in a club where there is respect for song writers like him or by the fireplace with a glass of wine. 14 Tracks are equally beautiful and harmonious with the singing of Jane, this is certainly a feast for the ear. From the magnificent 'Tengo Ranchito' to the wonderful instrumental 'Wysteria' to the dreamy 'Horses With Wings' piece by piece poetry. The need for some luck anyway in a small corner that is full with mega successful and others less to do with all these people are just as John Nelson who live for their music and truly enjoy with their guitar in hand and take away equal time with their music. Beautiful!
Rootsville (Belgium)

It's from the Northwestern United States that comes John Nelson, a musician who gained some notoriety as a producer and has played the guitar since the age of 14 years, now is performing as a songwriter. In the references he claims are Tim Hardin, The Beatles, Ron Davies, Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Muddy Waters, Freddy King and Jimmy Reed. With it, you better be good! Well the village is not bad at all. True, his voice is sometimes a limit of accuracy but it has finally put the emotion that distills the 14 songs on this album. Only Satisfied Mind is a return, the other 13 were written by John himself. During the course of nearly an hour, verging on country, touches on blues, tango, gentle on the folk and tickles the rock. In any case, certain songs are excellent, none is bad. As for production, of course assured by John Nelson. Well it is the talent of the various participants (JJC) Le CRI DU COYOTE October/November 2008


Guitarist's soulful music soothes ailing children -
For Seattle musician John Nelson, life really does inspire art. Every week, with guitar in hand, Nelson performs at the bedside of infants and children at Seattle's Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center.
"It's really gratifying for me. It's given me the opportunity to give something back, "said Nelson, who has been volunteering at the hospital for 2 1/2 years. "It's very deep to be with people in that environment."
The experiences at Children's Hospital inspired Nelson's first full-length instrumental recording, "Soliloquy." The Album, which is mostly acoustic guitar, consists of gentle, sweeping music that is at once calming and inspirational.
The self-taught musician, who has been playing guitar for nearly four decades, is also a composer who brings an array of musical tastes, from rock to world beat, jazz and folk, to his work. Nelson brings music to the people through regular performances at cafes around the Seattle area, including Ravenna Third Place Books and Honey Bear Cafe. (October 12, 2003)
Seattle Times

John Nelson is a versatile guitarist whose playing ranges from rock'n'roll to rock-a-billy to the exquisitely gentle contemplative music that fills this, his first solo CD. Nelson has spent a great deal of time in the studio as producer and arranger, working with a remarkable range of musicians. He also spends a good deal of time at the Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle, playing for the patients, their families and the staff that cares for them, and this CD is dedicated to them, calling them the inspiration for his songs. Clearly, there has been a richly loving and emotional interaction between the patients and their caregivers and Nelson's playing. This is one of the most gratifying solo guitar sets in some time - sweet, surprisingly simple, touching - a great companion to nearly any of your daily (or nightly) activities and a delicious listen like letting your eyes dwell on a campfire or waterfall. The word that keeps coming to mind is "care". You are likely to care deeply for this set. - (Bill Fisher) Victory Review Acoustic Music Magazine- (September 2003)

This CD is exquisite. Each piece has its own set of colors, its own voice, and allows the listener to dance, hum, or look inward. No two songs are alike, and this continuum of surprise compels the listener to appreciate the entire work. John Nelson's skill as a guitarist, composer and performer leave the listener more than satisfied. The music travels from folk song tradition to jazz, gypsy and almost classical. It only enhances the beauty of each piece to know that much of the music was inspired by children making their journeys through illness, children John knows and plays for at Seattles Childrens Orthopedic Hospital. It is a rare, must have collection by a stunningly talented, insightful musician. - (Caroline Aaron)

Soliloquy is the telling work of a man who has devoted himself to assisting others in their healing process. Soothing and inspirational, his solo guitar provides a gentle experience that frees the mind and invites the soul to do its healing work.
This collection of guitar instrumentals combines meditative themes and varying time signatures to produce a spacious feel and an embracing sound. It also works well as gentle background music.
"For Seattle musician John Nelson, life really does inspire art," reports the Seattle Times (Oct. 2003). "Every week, with guitar in hand, Nelson performs at Seattle's Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center."
"It's really gratifying for me," says Nelson, a self taught musician and composer. "It gives me the opportunity to give something back."
The Light Connection (September 2004)

The simple sleeve packaging for Soliloquy belies John Nelson's soothing, talented, and original guitar work. Offering ensemble and solo instrumentals, his latest CD was inspired by the patients and staff at Children's Hospital in Seattle, where he performs regularly. The recording quality of Soliloquy is professional and intimate, clearly revealing Nelson's emotional connection with his original audience. The melody on "Rondelay" gracefully circles round and round, while "Island Waltz" takes listeners on an easy autumn journey through the San Juans of Puget Sound. This music is equally calming and inspiring. Play Soliloquy in your store to promote this accomplished indie artist and to amp your music sales. New Age Retailer (October 2003 Issue)

Coast Bound Train

Schwennsen & Nelson have been making music together and with other Puget Sound-area heavy hitters for years and years, and they've reached a wonderful, amazing place with their music: a place where the roots they dug up and the roots they planted themselves a couple decades ago have intertwined completely. Coast Bound Train is a great record, one that sounds very different each time it's played. It stands up to serious musical scrutiny, it works as a "headphones" record, it works in the car. Schwennsen & Nelson play "loose/tight", with their two guitars busily searching out completely different approaches to rhythm and melody yet somehow always complementing each other; their duet singing is most often a dual lead, though sometimes there's what the doo-whoppers used to call "fishin' harmony". It all sounds very loose, but the realization builds that these two are really inside each others' heads. The album is arranged that way, too, with the laid back, jangly tunes on what would have been side one of vinyl, and tighter, more rockin' material on "side two". There's a vinyl vibe on Coast Bound Train, sure, but that's only the roots showing. The songs are about mature relationships and things that grown ups think about in 2005, without any brooding about what's past and gone. If the music happens to occasionally remind us adults of, say, Brewer and Shipley, well that's OK and it's about time somebody did! The album is tastefully produced and handsomely packaged and was made with worthy cameo appearances by the legendary Alice Stuart and fiddle ace Jon Parry, back in town to help his buddies. Go get it.
(Tom Petersen) Victory Music Review (July 2005)

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