Robb Johnson

ROBB JOHNSON - A Beginner’s Guide
Irregular Records IRR057

“Most of the gigs I do are just me and the acoustic guitar. Afterwards people often ask ‘Which CD sounds most like what you did tonight?’ It’s this one.” That more or less sets out Johnson’s stall as the dissenting, thorn-in-side of the pompous, the selfish, the greedy, the agressive and all things unjust in our world approaches his er, middle years. He’s not going quietly either as you can imagine. ‘A Beginners Guide’ is a first-take, Saturday-morning-and-then-off-for-a-pint revisiting of some old songs plus one or two new to disc. These vary from a return to ‘Small Revolutions’ originally aired when Pip Collings made up their duo and a celebration of the 1979 Marxist Sandinista victory in Nicaragua to ‘Everything’s All Right’ - a swipe at the on-going Bush wars and not without a hint of cynicism spat out with a sneer.

Elsewhere it’s the small, everyday trials and tribulations, the quiet emotions that bring Robb (and ourselves) tears and laughter. He can convey uncannily, feelings so universally felt via a first person manner, to our own hearts. As Ken Hunt in the tray notes says “there is beauty in the commonplace.” ‘A Dorset Moon’ would concur, while the affecting ‘When Harry Took Me To See Ypres’ is desolation transcended by time and love, as Laura Nyro would have it. Such sweet-sour intelligent writing isn’t going to equal millions of sales. His themes of survival, and weary determination, shot through with love and yes, occasional humour will never be product-shifting for any major label. A voice honest, defiant and real - thankfully he’ll always be a passionate maverick.

Uneasy listening then, but well worth the effort. Robb Johnson, he never lets you down.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 62 of The Living Tradition magazine.