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Richard Leo Johnson

CD (2004); with Greg Bendian : CD (2008)

Cuneiform Rec.Richard Leo Johnson Trio : Poetry of Appliance (US,2004)***°

Architectural photographer Richard Leo Johnson in 1993 released a private release with percussionist Jud Martindale, when he already came to the attention of Cuneiform’s man Steven Feigenbaum, who distributed the album through Wayside. When three years later, he lost his entire work of photography, Johnson changed focus, moved to Nashville, and from now on pursued his music career, with a contract on Blue Note soon after, and with two solo releases in 1999 and 2001. After a cooperation with The Savannah Symphony Orchestra, he formed, with two members of the orchestra, the Richard Leo Johnson Trio. This is with Andrew Ripley on winds and electronics and Ricardo Ochoa on (mostly electric) strings and theremin. This is their début album. It’s not a release that can be placed so easily. The trio works well together in composition, often chamber music like, refined, “educated”, in a way we hear differently from for example Shamrock, Führ & Fröhling and only just a few others, but also with some lead guitar compositions. The different instruments and compositions mostly wave just perfectly in one another...

Audio in order of appearance on CD :
"Highway 420 revisited" , "Charmin' Carmen", "Her to Hymn", "Glidepath", "Eulogy",
"Haploid Springs" "4 Months, 4 Days" "Moon Is a Sky Thing
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Cuneiform Rec.    Richard Leo Johnson and Gregg Bendian : Who Knew Charlie Shoe ? (US,2008)****

Very different from the 2004 album I have heard before this is much more a guitar based album, in the American primitive steel-guitarists tradition, more often played with slide. Richard plays (the role of) “Charlie Shoe”, a so far hidden secret of a guitar hero who lives on or near some farm, an imagined lost myth of American folk guitar made-up history, with Gregg Bendian (Interzone, Mahavishnu Project, Trio Pianissimo) on percussion, playing (the role of) “Junk Fish”. His percussion instruments are lots of junk, a washboard and a bucket full of water mostly, also, not played without leaving his own sort of rhythmical and sonic touches of humour.

On “First breath in a bean field” the rhythmical water splashes from the bucket sound like someone eating rapidly on the rhythm of the guitar. Elsewhere I heard some tapping stick-ticking percussion, some found tone-percussion (on plastic, and other material), on “Superman”, bells, or simple washboard hop-hops (on “uncle’s Toby place”, the first track which a glockenspiel arrangement as well), and a plastic bag walking from the left to the right channel on “circus came and went” (with some additional accordion this time), or some occasional door “bams” sound pitches (or whatever that sound was) on “blind injustice”, or a moveable can with water between the legs for more slamming percussion.

Also in the concept is at least some humour in the earnestness-of-it-all , especially when walking thoroughly into the idea, with a few humoristic introductions, and occasional moments with environmental sounds recalling the so called uneasy harsh situation on a farm, like a dog barking, a distant sawing machine and crows far in the background (on "Looking for Charlie").
There’s also one strange, experimental, almost industrial sounding guitar track called “junk fish out of water”.

In the meanwhile the guitar pieces moodily swing to open air, mostly with slide-guitar touches.
The last, also the sweetest track, “Forgotten Lullaby”. once more with glockenspiel, is played acoustically. 21 tracks !

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