Instrumentalist Johannes Linstead is not an easy artist to categorize. Some listeners have described the acoustic guitarist's ambitious, far-reaching albums as new age (although he is much more energetic than new age artists are typically known for being), and others have labeled him nuevo flamenco (that is, modern flamenco-pop rather than traditional straight-ahead flamenco). But while some of his acoustic guitar playing is, in fact, relevant to Spain's nuevo flamenco scene, the truth is that contemporary flamenco is only a part of what the unpredictable, highly eclectic Linstead does. If any one term best summarizes Linstead's diverse albums, it would be "world fusion." Linstead has been influenced not only by the music of Spain, but also by the music of Greece, Italy, Portugal, Cuba, Trinidad, Brazil, Peru, India, Morocco, and the Middle East. If anything ties Linstead's rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic influences together -- most of them, anyway -- it is the fact they tend to come from the world's warmer, sunnier climates. Linstead's work does not owe a lot to styles of music that originated in places known for their cold, harsh, snowy, dark winters; the parts of the world that have influenced him the most -- the Mediterranean, southwestern Europe, the Caribbean, South America, the Middle East, North Africa -- get plenty of sunlight. But ironically, Linstead is not from any of the sunny locations that have influenced his playing and composing -- he is actually a native and resident of Canada.
Linstead -- who has often been compared to Ottmar Liebert, Lara & Reyes, Jesse Cook, Armik, and Oscar Lopez -- brings a wide variety of influences to his recordings. Linstead's albums give the impression that the instrumentalist has been affected by everyone from Tomatito and Paco de Lucía (two of flamenco's greatest guitarists) and Greek icon Manos Hadjidakis to Brazilian guitarists like Egberto Gismonti and the late Laurindo Almeida. Linstead is not a jazz artist per se but can be mildly jazzy at times, demonstrating that he is well aware of Django Reinhardt's innovative gypsy swing as well as the fusion guitar playing of Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, and Return to Forever graduate Al DiMeola. That isn't to say that Linstead plays the acoustic guitar exclusively on-stage or in the studio; while the acoustic guitar is his primary instrument, Linstead also plays mandolin, violin, bass, acoustic piano, electric keyboards, various wooden flutes, and the bouzouki (a traditional Greek string instrument). And when it comes to picking sidemen for his albums and live performances, Linstead thrives on diversity; he is the type of multicultural artist who wouldn't hesitate to use Indian tabla drums and gypsy violin at the same time.
Sol Luna Tierra, Linstead's first album, was released by the independent Real Music in 1999; his subsequent Real Music releases included Kiss the Earth in 2000, Guitarra del Fuego in 2001, and Zabuca in 2003. Linstead's fifth album, Mediterranea, came out on Earthscape Music in 2004. ~ Alex Henderson