Stunted Records www.stuntedrecords.co.uk [Release date 25.06.18]
Ash Johnson has been a key figure on the North Lincolnshire music scene for many years working in various bands in the area. Now on the suggestion of the record label boss he has recorded this debut solo album and what a treat it is.
Musically the album treads an Americana path in the main, with some excellent guitar work throughout supplied by Johnson and guests John Clay and Chris Dale. Each riff and solo is finely tuned and blissful on the ears. Good to see a songwriter put as much effort into the music as the lyrics.
It is an album that demands a listener’s attention with lyrics that can resonate with many covering social media on ‘Rumour Mill’ and the darker side of small town life on ‘Cloudform’. Chole Rodgers guests on the title track and her vocals complement Ash’s vocals, providing an album highlight. ‘The Ghost’ contrasts with the rest of the album with its fast driving rock and it does show another side to his music.
Nicely presented and packaged, showing a lot of care and attention has gone into this.
An intriguing album that is worthy of your time and attention. Hopefully it will propel Ash Johnson into a wider audience and recognition. ****
Review by Jason Ritchie
Ash Johnson answers a few questions about his new album, touring and how he got into making music…
How different was it working as a solo artist compared to previously when you have worked in a band environment?
The process is pretty different as I only have myself to push and pull ideas around with when writing and getting a piece ready for recording. I find a band setting has its pros and cons in that you can have more input from others, which usually leads to some good ideas quicker resulting in a sometimes faster output when coming up with material.
The downside is though that it can sometimes be a compromise as to how a song should sound, lyrical content, even down to the tempo, timing or section of a song being changed. Whilst all that can also promote learning as a musician, on this record there was no compromise at all.
Although the songs came about over a long period of time, I always had a sound in my head of what I wanted to achieve.
The title track features a moving duet with Chloe Rodgers. How did you decide to work with Chloe to sing with you and will you possibly work with her again in the future?
Initially The Mad Ship was written as a single male vocal track where the original home demo still remains this way. However, due to the subject matter, I figured that with just a little tweaking on the lyrics that the track would lend itself very well to a duet.
We banded a few idea’s around for possible singers with nothing really sticking or working out. After a couple of weeks, Jonny Kerr, who plays bass on the album sent me a YouTube link of Chloe in action. After seeing it, I called her and invited her down to the studio.
I still remember when she sang the line ‘’the sunrise gives me hope on this new day’’ it raised the hairs on my neck it was that good. Our voices seem to gel well together and I would love to work with Chloe again as the video shoot was a really fun day and she is so talented.
That said, I don’t know when, or even ‘if’ it will ever happen again. Never say never though.
The lyrics on the album appear to be deeply personal, however they can resonate with many in particular ‘Rumour Mill’ about social media. Do you find Facebook, Twitter etc useful as an artist to promote your music or is it now getting to full of negative comments and a lot of musicians chasing a decreasing market?
I don’t have a problem with social media. In fact, I probably use it more now than I ever have in my life. As a musician, it can be an excellent tool for promotion as well as discussion.
The track Rumour Mill is more about what came up on my FB feed one night. It showed a picture taken some years ago and asked me if I wanted to share this memory. I didn’t, but it reminded me of how much things as well as people change over time, and how social media can sometimes distort a perceived reality.
Although some of the lyrics on the album are personal, they are also veiled enough in places which I think can help the songs have a more universal appeal for the listener. At least, I hope they can.
Who or what made you want to start songwriting and making music?
The guitar was the first catalyst that made me want to write music.
Although there were other influences which made me pick up a guitar at age 15 in the first place, the guitar became the catalyst to writing music. I remember learning my chords and scales and a lot of my friends back then just wanted to learn the new Guns N’ Roses or Metallica track, I mainly wanted to write my own. The very first song I ever learned was a song I wrote called ‘’Old Well’’ The chords were C, E minor and A minor. They were the only chords I knew at the time. I only really remember the chorus now but yeah….. Funny to remember that one – thank you for the question :)
What have been your favourite live performances to date and why?
As a solo artist, all of the time this last two years has been given to the making of the album and as such, I haven’t done any live dates as yet. That said, we will be doing some so I hope I can answer this question at some point in the near future. In a band setting there are many that spring to mind. An alcohol fueled evening in a small town in North Germany holds great memories. Not only the crowd being packed, but the level of crazy around that night, suited my mood down to the ground. The bass player ‘Jonny’ even broke his arm. Crazy times….!
What have you got planned musically for the rest of the year?
Gigs and festival appearances with the Ash Johnson trio at first but I have already started writing again so this will hopefully manifest itself into an EP later this year or early next year.
Message for your fans…
Thank you to everyone whom has supported me up to now. It is appreciated so much. I really hope you like the album when it comes out and I’ll maybe see some of you when we are out doing some dates.
Love Ash J
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Power Plays w/c 20 August 2018
JOLLYMON Monkeyhawk (indie)
WAKE THE SUN Squeezebox (indie)
THE BRUTALISTS Form & Function (Cleopatra Records)
STIMULI Pill For The Pill (indie)
DAN REED NETWORK Fade To Light (Zero One Entertainment)
THE TREATMENT Let’s Get Dirty (Frontiers)
Featured Albums w/c 20 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 AIRRACE Untold Stories (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 MASSIVE WAGONS Full Nelson (Earache)
14:00-16:00 GRAHAM GOULDMAN Love And Work (Wienerworld)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
18:00-19:00 ROACHFORD Permanent Shade Of Blue (1994)
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