Across The White Plains

Deborah Liv Johnson

(MS 1233)

Mojave Sun Records
P.O. Box 40369
San Diego, CA 92164

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Rick Teverbaugh
(rickert@netdirect.net)

Perhaps it would be a bit too corny to say that acoustic music fans "Liv" for the chance to discover discs like this. But in the case of Deborah Liv Johnson and Across The White Plains it is more accurate than corny. What everyone will notice first is her soaring voice, but what will remain the longest in the memory banks is the way she uses it.

Johnson understands that in today's crowded songstress marketplace it is hardly enough to possess a great set of pipes. She knows that if she hits that nearly unapproachable note nearly every time the disc takes a turn, it loses impact. So when she lets fly, it really hits home.

Another strength is Johnson's sense of adventure. Anyone with this voice could present a dull sameness throughout the disc by depending on vocal talent alone to carry the day and leaving the music as background decoration. Yet here, just a few songs into the disc, it becomes clear that almost anything could be waiting on the next cut.

When The Moon Has Lost Its Shadow opens the program and isn't the strongest way to begin. Instrumentally the song isn't that attractive and lyrically it isnít particularly consistent.The title cut is a huge improvement. It is the first chance for guitarist Peter Sprague to shine and he is equal to that task for the rest of the disc. His roots might be in jazz but his fills and solos are perfectly atuned to this music. The song is a tribute to an all-woman team of explorers who made the trip from Antartica to the South Pole in 1993.

By the fifth cut we learn that Johnson was born in Tanzania to a missionary father and a courageous mother. That song starts out as a longing to see her birthplace again (she is currently residing in San Diego) but it becomes a tribute to her mom. Though the mood of the disc is mostly restrained, Johnson does pick up the tempo a couple of times, on the R&B inflected Sweet On You and for the nearly coutrified Five O'Clock Train.

Two songs stand out clearly. The first, Three Sweet Minutes, is about a lonely man on the road falling in love with a woman singing on the radio. He knows he'll never have her but he doesn't care. The second highlight is Amazing Grace. Johnson turns the song into a slow blues tune that still retains its uplifting intent but with a new twist.

Deborah Liv Johnson is a cut well above average because she has song writing skills, a wonderful, passionate voice and a good idea of how to use the two talents together with those of her musicians to create an entertaining package.

Edited by Kerry Dexter
(riosur@aol.com)

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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