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ROBB JOHNSON - Man Walks Into A Pub

ROBB JOHNSON - Man Walks Into A Pub
Irregular Records IRR077

You could, from the title, be mistaken for thinking that this is a collection of a particular genre of anecdotal short jokes. However, it is far from that, and that should come as no surprise to anyone who knows any of Robb’s previous work. One of our more outspoken writers, always thought provoking even if you don’t agree with everything he writes or sings, Robb just demands to be listened to. Whether with a band or, as it is on this CD, just him and his guitar, the words are the important thing. He has a conciseness of language which is based on the fact that every word is important.

Man Walks Into A Pub is a celebration of two key roles of that establishment - both of which are in danger of disappearing. But Robb doesn’t add to the debate as to why that is happening. The first role is that of being somewhere to escape to with a book or to meet people. My own father always went to the pub straight from work to engage in conversation with people from varying walks of life. Arguments raged, whilst others sat with their heads in a book, doing crosswords or coming up with grand plans. Robb has put this into practice because what appears to be a booklet of lyrics is actually a book of Robb’s own poetry. We don’t need to read the words as they come across loud and clear.

The other role which is under serious threat is that of a place of live music, and again Robb has done it for real. As part of a folk club residency in the pub where he wrote much of his poetry, and where the retro album photos were taken by the barmaid, he challenged himself to write a new song for each performance. These were based on newspaper stories or things he saw from buses, and form most of this CD. Not only that, but they are the sort of topics discussed in pubs before they changed into eating houses or became so noisy you can’t hear yourself think.

As I said this is a thought provoking album from a master of his craft. Musically good Man Walks Into A Pub is no joke, but a serious piece of work full of other emotions. Well worth a listen or two or more - it’s worth it for the book of poetry alone. If only I could find a pub to walk into to read it in......

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.