Johnson's Crossroad "Blood in Black and White" (Dirty Boogie Records, 2009)
Carolina country folk clock in with an impressive debut
Johnsonís Crossing have grafted on the Carolina live circuit for a time until they got themselves a growing audience and then recorded this album. In fact just a cursory listen to ĎBlood in Black & Whiteí and itís amazing to think that this is actually their debut release, such is itís depth, sense of maturity and deep loss; and of course itís consummate musicianship.
Lead vocalist Paul Johnson doesnít sound so much like heís been round the block a few times, he sounds like he helped design and build the block. Heís in control of a wonderfully weather-trampled melodic grumble; something like a countrified Tom Waits mixed with John Hiattís older brother. In addition, the man can turn out a decent tune and an often evocative, considered lyric.
Recorded entirely acoustically with a live-in-the-studio-feel and just a sparse core of guitar, dobro, mandolin and stand-up bass, with the occasional guest on banjo and harmonica beefing up the inherant old style country and bluegrass leanings, Johnsonís voice and narratives are rightly at the fore of each song.
How real the tales of Jail, Bail, loss and bitter hard times are one canít ever tell. ďIíve done my time in places I didnít want to be, although Iíll miss some faces I wont miss the sceneryĒ he laments on superb opener ĎLeft Behindí but they are delivered with a believable sincerity that it scarcely matters.
ĎYou Need Not Look Me In The Eyesí is a strong highlight with its loping country stroll. "When you come back youíll still be gone..Iíve been working on a building for me and you, but the earth has shifted and Iím not sure my foundation will be all that strongĒ Johnson pines before being joined by some backing vocal harmonies. Thoughtful moments like this show there is, amazingly, still plenty of mileage left in the mournful heartbroken country ballad when done with skill and vision.
Being simply arranged acoustic country and blues of a formulaic persuasion dictates that it isnít the most varied 40 mins of music available in the universe, and that can occasionally prove to be itís blemish, however the band play and sing with a vibrancy that attracts the attention throughout.
A sturdy and impressive debut in every sense.
Date review added: Thursday, March 04, 2010
Reviewer: Ian Fildes
Related web link: meet me at the crossroads