ADY JOHNSON – London Songs (own label)

London SongsAdy Johnson released his second album London Songs on February 23rd. Johnson has a degree in classical guitar performance, gave up a career as an antique furniture restorer to become a full time musician and first made his name busking outside BBC6 Music’s 6Fest – where he was so impressive that the organisers asked him to stand in for a band on the main bill when they cancelled.

London Songs is a combination of acoustic songs. There are tracks which are quiet and intimate – with limited backing from the band – essentially Johnson on guitar with supporting decoration. ‘The Glass Tower’ is a cheerful love song about seeing the glass tower (the Shard, I wondered?) that lets him know he’s nearly home to his lover; ‘The Black and Blue’ is a post-love song, i.e. some years after their love has ended, which has great lines like “I lifted your life/In many boxes up and down flights“– the first line is brilliant in its ambiguity, the second is sheer genius; ‘Bring You Back’ subtitled ‘For Nan’ is a reflection on fading memories and the love that grows even though “you can’t quite place my face”.)

Elsewhere, Johnson’s guitar is supported at various times by drums, sousaphone, piano, trumpet and P-bone. This is a fun bunch of instruments and the real energy of the album is in the songs with the band. However, I’ve listened to it in car and on headphones and it doesn’t hit me. The reviews, though, all suggest Johnson is “damn good live” (Tom Robinson, that one) and the 6Fest story reinforces this. When I’ve put the album on a decent sound system I’ve found a depth which made the CD work. The highlights for me are these up-tempo songs – ‘Problems Of Your Own’, ‘Put The World On Standby’, ‘Bloodshot Eyes’ and ‘Whale Song’ – Lieutenant Pigeon bringing it back home after a night partying with the Small Faces and Tom Waits.

Click on the YouTube link below to have a listen to ‘Whale Song‘ recorded live in Leeds and you get a sense of Johnson’s skill on the guitar and the energy of his live performance. He has 30 or so gigs coming up, either on his own or supporting Scott Matthews, details here are on his website.

Mike Wistow

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Artist’s website: http://www.adyjohnson.co.uk

‘Whale Song’ – live:

IAN SIEGAL – All the Rage (Nugene Records 1801)

All The RageIan Siegal releases All The Rage on March 16th, his eleventh album. Folking.com has already announced the new album so what follows is much more of a personal reflection.

It’s a long time ago, but if memory serves me right, I first saw Ian Siegal about twenty years back in the kind of venue that every town should have – decent beer, dark once you’re past the bar, black walls with a great graphic painted on, sticky underfoot and a great sound system (‘one of Kerrang’s Top Five Venues’ or words to that effect were emblazoned on the walls). Ian Siegal came on second and I remember thinking, “I thought the first guy was good, this is something extra”. Twenty years on, this new album proves that Ian Siegal is still something special.

If you don’t know Siegal’s work, this album is essentially electric blues with a band that adds depth to the sound and means you can turn the volume up full – whether it’s in your living room or in the car. Do it – In writing this paragraph, I’ve just blasted the house out on ‘The Sh*t Hit’ (the title is more coy than the singing); it’s got moody electric lead with a steady blues rhythm section. Good as it is quieter, it really should be played loud. Actually, just do this from the start of the album (I just have). The aggression of ‘Eagle Vulture’ which opens the album repays volume just as much – as do ‘One-Eyed King’, ’Sailor Town’ and the almost gospel soul/blues of ‘Sweet Souvenir’ where Siegal, “shipwrecked with no guiding star” and trying to cheer himself up, bends the ear of the barman and drinks till the bar shuts. A beautiful arrangement plus gospel-ised backing vocals lifts the song to magnificent heights in capturing that kind of night.

If you know Ian Siegal from the past twenty-five years, you’ll know why Classic Rock magazine has called him “a national treasure”. If not then this would be a great introductory album because the other tracks on All The Rage are more varied and I suspect will give it a breadth of audience wider than, say, the more purely blues-focused 2009 album, Broadside (which Mojo magazine picked as Blues Album of the Year).

The remaining tracks, then: ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is “a porch-blues bone-rattler with a gang-chanted vocal” (I defy anyone to better that description from the publicity material); ‘Won’t Be Your Shotgun Rider’ is country-flavoured in the way that The Band or Counting Crows do non-sentimental country; ‘Ain’t You Great’ somehow manages to be somewhere between Latin-American/I’m Your Man era Cohen/and Blues – and it works; ‘My Flame’ is a revelation in its simplicity.

Ian Siegal has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame for his achievement in receiving the award for male vocals in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The video below takes you to the promo for the new album. It’s little over a minute long, so have a listen but then flick round YouTube for other Siegal videos to get a sense of just why his work is so admired (Mojo, for example, called him, “One of the most innovative, gifted and engaging blues performers on the planet today”).

Siegal is touring from March 24th. All The Rage is probably the best new album I’ve played this year; they should be great gigs – and loud I hope. If only that venue was still open.

Mike Wistow

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: https://iansiegal.com

More album details:

Ian Siegal – new album and tour dates