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

Artist’s website:

‘Whale Song’ – live:


Having fronted Colchester’s organ driven rock ‘n’ roll band FuzzFace for some years, Ady Johnson now embarks on a solo acoustic project with the launch of his debut album TELL THE WORRY DOLLS. This self-released album has already been recognised as a possible “first contender for album of the year… deserves to be massive” in a glowing 9/10 review by James Robinson for the Press Association: “This low-key, no-label release by Colchester singer-songwriter Ady Johnson might well be the first contender for album of the year. Johnson’s voice and face are both similar to Harry Nilsson’s, while the sound, an acoustic guitar-led barroom skiffle, is resonant of Badly Drawn Boy’s first record – plus, he has fantastic tunes to match. It’s refreshing to hear music in the folk genre being so dynamic and upbeat. Tell The Worry Dolls deserves to be massive. An excellent start to 2011”

Ady Johnson performs live regularly and has played numerous festivals, including headlining the Castle stage at the 2010 Colchester Free Festival and has supported bands such as Cornershop, The Godfathers, the Telescopes, Tom Hingley, Chris Helm and Ben Howard and even played live in the middle of a pop up maze in London’s Trafalgar Square!  A particular highlight came last year when Ady was busking at 6Fest, the London festival organised to celebrate the successful campaign to save BBC 6 Music from closure. While busking, Ady was asked to open 6Fest after one of the acts had not turned up; an opportunity not to be missed.

This experience was summed up on the day by DJ Shaun Keaveny who said “What a story that is… that’s typical of 6 Music.” The following week the London Metro ran a story ‘Busker bags festival gig after band cancel appearance!’

Tell The Worry Dolls is not your usual bland acoustic, ‘woe is me’, introspective fair. Johnson writes dynamic songs which range from heartfelt whispers to aggressive, soulful hollers! His distinctive vocals, deft guitar work and a sympathetic backing band, make Johnson’s recent recordings sound like Graham Coxon’s Spinning Top colliding with Tom Waits’ Bone Machine. Add some Steve Marriot vocals to the mix and you’re someway to describing Ady Johnson’s sound. This stunning solo debut release was recorded live where possible with a backing band at Long Track Studios through an old Neve mixing console John Peel used at Maida Vale Studios

The album is inspired from Johnson’s personal life experiences and deal with a range of subjects and emotions that we are all confronted by, or can relate to. This is reflected in the song writing and the honesty and conviction of his performances. Johnson’s songs are dynamic and diverse; he can pull on the heart strings but also brings balls to the acoustic cannon. Johnson explains, “Each of the songs express some kind of worry, concern or angst, and in committing these songs to the album, I like to think I’ve finally completed the cathartic process you go though as a singer/songwriter- much like the folklore which surrounds the Guatemalan Worry Dolls; you tell the dolls your worries before you go to sleep and in the morning you find that they’ve taken them away.”

Stand out tracks on the album include the glorious opener 20,000 Miles From Home, reminiscent of the writings of Stephen Duffy in his Lilac Time period, the superb Pink Flamingos and his crooning rendition of Jewelly Box is truly outstanding. If you want a comparison of Johnson’s vocal delivery, Paolo Nutini would be fairly close. All ten tracks are self composed and to be honest there is not a filler track to be found.

For more information and the latest tour dates please visit