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Friday, July 11, 2014

The Johnston Bros. - S/T

Name: The Johnston Bros.
Album: s/t
Year: 1980
Style: Country Pub, Bluegrass
Similar Bands: Charlie Daniels Band
"One Word" Review: Small Town Country Grass
Based Out Of: Philadelphia, PA
Label: n/a
The Johnston Bros - Cover & Record
 The Johnston Bros  - Back & Autographed Sleeve
The Johnston Bros. (1980)
  1. Oh My Love 3:13
  2. Disco Lady/Country Boy 3:01
  3. Show Me A Sign 3:45
  4. This River's Too Wide 2:27
  5. Honey, You Been on My Mind 2:18/
  6. Runnin' Away From the Game 3:17
  7. All of Your Love 3:35
  8. Reflection In Your Eyes 2:58
  9. For What I Am 3:25
  10. Soldier's Joy (traditional) 3:37
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5
Members & Other Bands:
Arthur DuHaime - Bass
Mark Johnston - Drums, Vox
Kurt Johnston - Guitar, Banjo, Pedal Steel, Vox (Bon Jovi)
Wayne Johnston - Guitar, Harmonica, Vox (Lucky Oceans, Susquehanna River Band, The Hawks)
Lionel Cartwright - Piano
Gene Galligan - Piano, String Synth
Johnny Cuningham - Fiddle
Phillip Cunningham - Accordian
Wendy Britton - Backing Vox
Ellen Britton - Backing Vox
Bob Mignogna - Engineering
Marie Caron - Engineer
Jack Murray - Album Design / Cover Art
Dave Motko - Photos
Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this band. But I like the clean cover of just the logo on the black surface. Looks like it will be Pub Rock all the way. I like the simple and centered back, very clean and well laid out. Looks like they are from the Philadelphia area, so that’s an added bonus. And it is from 1980, so again, a big plus in potential.
Album Review:
So this is basically a straight forward country record. Honestly, this is not in my comparative wheelhouse, so I’m not going to do very good here. As for the band, later in life, the lead guitar player became a god rocker, and toured with Bon Jovi in the mid to late 90’s. They still come back to the Philadelphia area and play out, as recently as 2004 in Lansdale (which is already 10 years ago…never mind about that recent part). And one lives in Georgia; 2 in PA.
“Oh My Love” sets the tone immediately with slide guitar and harmonica. Straightforward country music, from the swagger in the vocals, and boot clicking drum beat to the bouncy bass line. The chorus is nicely harmonized. After two cycles, the harmonica comes on for a spotlit solo, followed by the pedal guitar. The harmonized vocals come back for a little and the song ends on a guitar note
“Disco Lady/Country Boy” features some bold drums and a disco intro that almost rocks. Then the country vocals come in and take the song over. I’m sure hearing this song live in the middle of the set started with looks of concern with the amount it changed the style, only to relieve patrons when the song shifts into a straight forward rhythm banjo played country song. There is a brief moment of “Devil Went Down To Georgia” spoken-singing, then it heads back to the pub-style country song. This song was surely a sign of the times, and a product of a cultural collision.
“Show Me A Sign” is a slower country ballad, sounding more like real, classic country in melody and theme. This song shows their god-roots, as the song asks their god to show the sign, rather than the preconceived notion that it would be about a girl. The different country instruments take their turn showcasing a western “on the range” feel. I guess that’s the style and imagery they chose for singing about being “alone without their god’s direction”
“This River's Too Wide” is a much more fun, honky tonk banjo pluckin’ barnstormin dance. There is a tinge of god in the lyrics, but it is covered by saying somebody, rather than shouldering the burden entirely on their god. But the harmonies and bluegrass structure of the song makes it somewhat fun.
“Honey, You Been on My Mind” is a fast played bluegrass number. The chorus of the title is nicely harmonized, and the song is just a runaway banjo and guitar number. The melody is incredibly simple but catchy. This travels the fine line between Blue Grass and Country, but again, when it falls, it hits the Bluegrass side, thanks mostly to the tempo.
“Runnin' Away From the Game” takes side two back to the ballad side. The vocals are from a different brother: these are deeper, even a like a tamer version Randy Newman. If this was cleverer, it could have been on Ween’s Golden Greats album. It’s toe tapping catchy, and has that steel element in the lead guitar, and a very light production for the acoustic rhythm guitar.
“All of Your Love” has quite a soulful beginning, nearly sounding like Motown, complete with a very catchy lead guitar hook. The vocals change the direction of the song nearly 180 degrees, with the country swagger and even the bass line is still there, the song lost all of the energy it had in the intro. The theme of the song is being loyal to one and only one woman, giving all of your love to one person. Toward the end repetition and interpretation of the chorus/title, a female backing chorus adds a good depth to the song, but it never turns back around from quite an impressive 20 second intro.
“Reflection In Your Eyes” is another slow side to side swaying ballad, with slide guitar, and dopey bass line. This sounds like a countrified version of an older boy vocal group song.
“For What I Am” starts with vocals only. As the song stirs awake, it brings an acoustic guitar and evokes a sort of fantasy dream vision. It could also be mistaken for a Bee-Gees song, minus their same level of harmonic achievement. This is a lighters in the air arm swaying ballad.
“Soldier's Joy (traditional)” is their bluegrass take on a traditional folk song. The banjo stands alone for a while in the beginning, followed by a fiddle mimicking the melody. Then the bass comes in for a measure, then the drums kick in. Once they are all in place, the various instruments make matching, meshing melodies of their own. The harmonica is added, replacing the fiddle at one point. But this is another barn dancing song. An accordion is added into the mix, And as each lass would have their chance to do their own dance in the middle of the floor by watching, clapping and cheering their co-dancer on, the instruments take their individual turns in the spotlight. In true dance form, they all converge together at the very end, and a drummer boy beat fades the album out.
Stand Out Track: Honey, You Been on My Mind

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