Damon Johnson has just finished writing a letter to his parents, thanking them for everything they have ever done for him.
Now more than ever, the lead singer-guitarist of bluesy rock quartet Brother Cane appreciates his cool, conservative Southern upbringing.
“They brought me up well,” Johnson said recently. “It just goes to show the importance of a positive home life.”
If the Birmingham, Ala.-based Johnson is feeling sentimental, it’s for a good reason. Brother Cane’s second Virgin album, “Seeds,” and the album-rock hit, “And Fools Shine On,” are blossoming, and this time around, they’re the ones headlining a U.S. tour.
“I don’t think we’d have it any other way,” Johnson said. “It’s a reward for all the hard work we’ve put into this.”
Still, coming off their 1993 self-titled debut album (which sold 250,000 copies), Johnson doesn’t take long to pinpoint his lowest low in Brother Cane’s ascend from bar band to AOR supremacy.
“It came when we came off our last tour,” he said. “There always seems to be this vacuum you’re in on the road, a lifestyle where all you do is worry about yourself, whether you’re eating well or taking care of yourself.
“Then I had to get back into the mode of sharing my time with my family and friends, and it got to the point where I didn’t have time to write songs. I had to go away. I went out West and spent time with Marty (Frederiksen), who’s our co-producer, and got the ball rolling in a forward motion.”
The result: a more personal and distinctive-sounding sophomore album. “Seeds” also marks the addition of guitarist David Anderson, replacing original bassist Glenn Maxey, and new duties for guitarist Roman Glick, who returns to his first instrument, bass.
The moves, Johnson said, only solidify Brother Cane’s driving rock diversity.
“Our goal, when we got together in the studio (for ‘Seeds’),” he said, “was to capture what the band is about live. When the first album came out, fans would tell us that they digged the record but when they saw us live, it was a totally different thing for them. So, we wanted to make a conscious effort to get a more common ground.”
More than anything, Brother Cane wanted to shake things up musically, Johnson said.
“We still have some of those early influences, but we’re more contemporary than say the Black Crowes,” he said. “At first, we got pigeonholed into the Southern rock thing, but we have more in common with Soundgarden than the Outlaws.
“If people say, with this record, ‘You’re a lot less bluesy and rural,’ it’s for just that reason.”
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