Steve Johnson: Lowlands
Steve Johnson is a storyteller. That’s apparent from the first lines of the first song on his new CD, Lowlands. That first song is The Labouring Man’s Daughter, a ballad that’s traveled in varied forms across England, Ireland, and the Appalachian Mountains of the United States. It opens the door to a gathering of songs, both familiar and less so, that have at their heart the power of story, and the power of connection.
Johnson usually likes to share these songs through informal sessions around his home base in the Bronx, New York. These are stories meant to be told, reflected upon, perhaps embellished and retold as they have been over time, stories drawn from Irish, Scottish, English and American folk music. There are a dozen of those, along with two songs whose composers are known, one a poem from the 1860s and another from the 1930s. What they all share is Johnson’s ability to express narrative through rich tone, thoughtful phrasing, and clear understanding of the lyrical and melodic ideas of the song he chooses. Though his back up cast is a stellar one, including Greg Anderson (who also produced the project), Lisa Gutkin, Sara Milonovich, Eamon O’Leary, and Natalie Haas, it’s Johnson’s voice and interpretations which center the album. Whatever your taste in music, if you enjoy good singing you’ll find much to like here.
Outstanding tracks include Wake Up Little Maggie, Molly Bawn, Blackwater Side, and The Rocks of Bawn.
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