"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 from the pen of John himself…you
should go into a club where there is respect for songwriters like him or by the fireplace with
a glass of wine." - Rootsville (Belguim)
Vagabond, Nelson's 2012 release, takes you on a musical journey, part travelogue with stories from Oklahoma, New Mexico, and the Carolinas, part love song, and part wistful remembrance. The follow up to "Tengo Ranchito", Vagabond continues the thread with infectious grooves, tasteful arrangements and pristine production. Containing 13 self-penned originals, it carves out musical territory from the folk-grass inspired "My Sweet Love" to the swampy "Waiting For The Weekend". "Medicine Creek", recounting the treaty signing of 1854 with Native tribes received a Woodyfest songwriting competition honor. "Oklahoma Saturday Night" paints the picture of a round barn dance in Americas' heartland with twin fiddles and sweet harmonies. "There's No Right Way To Do Me Wrong" lays down a blues swagger with honky-tonk piano and an Epiphone Zephyr cranked through a Fender Vibrolux. Character driven narratives like "Jezebel" relate another time and place in an old mill town and "By The Light" portrays a gentle remembrance, complete with a lilting string trio.
Musicians contributing their considerable talents to Vagabond include "International Steel Guitar Hall Of Fame Inductee" Doug Jernigan (Johnny Paycheck, Vassar Clements), fiddle ace Barbara Lamb (Asleep At The Wheel, Sweethearts Of The Rodeo), blues fiddler Jon Parry (Danny Barnes, Hank Williams Jr.), Jane Milford, Tammy Frost, Chris Leighton, Murl Sanders and the Grammy nominated Native American Flute player Gentle Thunder.
Nelson picked up his first guitar at 14 and has been playing solo and in group settings ever since. He attended The Port Townsend Summer School of The Arts and the University of Washington. In 1971, while living in Los Angeles he studied guitar with Joe Pass and worked as a tech at Valley Sound Music. For a time he worked at Mama Jo's Studio in the valley and then in 1978 opened the doors to Crow Recording Studio in Bellingham, Washington. A few years later the studio relocated to Seattle, establishing a larger facility. Basing the recording room in part, on the larger 'old school' studios in LA, he designed it to accommodate up to a 50 person ensemble, leading to 100's of orchestra and large band sessions.
Many acclaimed recordings followed including the Grammy nominated "ODU" for Nigerian superstar King Sunny Ade, sessions for The Posies, Soundgarden, Robert Cray, Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough, Los Lobos, Brian Bowers and hundreds of other local and international artists.
After downsizing the studio in 1999 Nelson refocused on writing, performing and recording. In 2003 he released his first solo album, "Soliloquy", inspired by weekly visits to Seattle Children's Hospital. These experiences echo the transformational power of music. Victory Music in it's review noted: "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."
"Coast Bound Train", a collaboration with Max Paul Schwennsen followed in 2005, and "Tengo Ranchito" in 2008 featuring a guest appearance by Alice Stuart. In it's review Miles Of Music stated: "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." It garnered "Essential Americana Records 2008" honors. (Barbed Wire Productions)
Vagabond, released in 2012, has received national and international airplay on all 13 self-penned originals. French DJ Mike Penard noted: "It has been such a pleasure to listen to these new songs…the richness of the sounds, of the words, the sensitiveness of your voice brings the spirit of the listener who lets himself into the beauty of your album…all is made with taste, with sensitiveness…it is the beautiful work of a music craftsman, far from stereotypes and already hundreds of times traveled roads."
John can be found performing at wineries, brewpubs and folk festivals as well as writing and producing in the studio.