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John Charney: Musical Adventurer
October 9, 2008 - Jim Price
One of the busiest musicians you will find on this area’s music scene these days is John Charney. And you’ll have several opportunities to witness John and his musical adventures within the coming days and weeks.
A Carrolltown native currently based out of Johnstown, John is a guitarist and guitar instructor, who currently teaches 20 students weekly. He is also a singer, songwriter, composer, and musical director of theatrical productions. He currently performs as a solo artist, as half of two duos, as member of a jam band trio and also a progressive rock trio.
You can see John’s solo show most Tuesday evenings from 7 to 9 PM at Jethro’s in Altoona. Singing and playing a double-necked guitar through an elaborate array of pedal effects, John’s solo show will take you on an eclectic musical journey that spans pop, rock, blues and more. But John doesn’t merely replicate cover songs; he transforms them into his own detailed and psychedelic-flavored musical journeys. You’ll hear B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” culminate in a spacey guitar jam; The Beatles’ “Girl” and Supertramp’s “Breakfast In America” taken on an Electric Light Orchestra-styled progressive pop joyride; and The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” transformed into a unique and captivating guitar and voice adventure. John’s guitar stylings are intricate and dazzling, and his effects serve as his playground to take his musical setlist into cosmic and uncharted territory. It’s definitely not your typical solo artist performance!
This Friday night, Oct. 10, John’s jam-geared band trio, The Chi, takes the stage at The Castle Pub in Ebensburg. In this group, John plays guitar alongside bassist Brad Rhea (formerly of Somerset County-based jam band Grinning Mob) and drummer Dave DiStefano; all three sing. Although jam flavors are an element of The Chi’s sound, this isn’t your book-rule jam band; this group takes an eclectic selection of 70’s and 80’s classics from a variety of musical realms, and transforms it all into their own distinct style and sound. Some of The Chi’s song selection includes such diverse offerings as Eric Burdon & War’s “Spill The Wine,” Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love,” Gary Wright’s “Love Is Alive,” War’s “Me and Baby Brother” and Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage/Eclipse.” But you might also hear the group’s crazy jam rendering of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades,” and straight-out rockers like The Kinks’ “Destroyer” and Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages.” The Chi’s setlist is unpredictable but exciting, and their musicianship and sense of adventure will keep you riveted from start to end.
As mentioned earlier, John Charney is also a musical director of theatrical productions. His past credits include several productions of The Rocky Horror Show over the past few years, as well as St. Francis University’s theater department production of the space-rock musical Visitor From Planet X (based on On and Beyond, the second CD by John’s progressive rock trio Wine Of Nails). John has also played in the pit orchestra in Central Cambria High School’s 2007 ISAAC-award-winning musical Godspell, as well as the school’s production of Aida.
On two successive weekends; Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays Oct. 16-18 and 23-25; John will be musical director and a member of the pit band for Allegheny Highlands Regional Theatre’s production of The Who’s rock opera Tommy, taking place at the Cresson Lake Playhouse. Directed by Will Jones (the mastermind behind recent local theatrical productions Ghosts: The Musical, Jack and Sherwood), the Cresson Lake edition of Tommy will strip the musical back closer to The Who’s original vision. The showtime is 8 PM for all six nights.
Although not actively playing out on area stages at the moment, John’s progressive rock trio, Wine Of Nails, is currently working on compositions for a new CD, tentatively expected to be recorded and released in 2009. The CD will be the group’s third, following 1999’s ‘If’ Is Worth Nothing and 2001’s On and Beyond. The current edition of Wine Of Nails features John on guitars, Scott Jeffreys on bass and Dominic Peruso on drums.
And John also performs in two separate duo projects. Dos is an acoustic duo pairing John with Brad Rhea; while A.M. Radio pairs John on acoustic guitar with Adam Mundok on lead vocals, harmonica and percussion. Both of these duos play on various western Pennsylvania stages between Johnstown and Pittsburgh.
And a little shameless self-promotion: You can hear John talking about his musical career and the upcoming production of The Who’s Tommy on the debut edition of “The Homegrown Rocker” (hosted by yours truly), this Sunday night, Oct. 12, from 9 to 11 PM on Rocky 104.9.
In conclusion, John Charney has established himself over the past several years to be one of the most creative and imaginative musical minds on this area’s music scene. This is an artist who is not afraid to step outside the box and do things a little bit differently when it comes to his musical creations. And as such, he and his various projects always provide interesting and exciting musical adventures when they appear on area stages.
John Charney, performing with The Chi during a January show at Dively's Tavern in Johnstown.