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: