This is one beautiful CD. The promo lit compares the lovely young Ms. Johnson to Aimee Mann, but I have to take cheerful issue with that. She's much more a cross of Mary Fahl, Bonnie Raitt, and Janis Ian, a quietly engrossing woman crafting songs delicate and enfolding, works grounded in the everyday but gently transcendent, especially in cuts like Being Your Stranger, with its mellotronic synth. In that, then, Ms. Mann's wont does indeed come across, the marvelous Voices Carry echoing gauzily, but via Johnson's butterfly wings rather than Til Tuesday's Olympian halls.
There's likewise a strong backbone of Joni Mitchell present. Blue Dress showcases this well, Johnson playing everything, keyboards and guitars, beneath contemplative wistfulness about lost times. Producer-engineer Daniel Wise demonstrates his mastery of atmosphere in exceedingly skillful layerings, creating a three-dimensionally spacious entablature missing nothing, capturing the heart and soul of the lyrics.
And that's the key to the 'secret room' here. Libby Johnson feels everything she writes, plays, and sings, feels it genuinely, no exaggerations, no playing to the times and masses, not a shred of compromise. She managed to snag Garland Jeffreys, a hugely under-respected talent, for a colorative recitation, but all the sessioneers are discerning musicians, underplaying masterfully in order not to trample the filigree and lace so prevalent throughout the album. Nonetheless, mention must be made of Jimi Zhivago, guitarist, ivories tickler, and a gent who complements Johnson's own tasty playing very well indeed.
Carry yourself over to the melodic slide Johnson favors in the spice and blood of Sister, You'll be Back Again, and you'll see why this is so. Zhivago doesn't appear there, but Libby demonstrates some of the fire beneath her willowy voice and approach, and that's what Zhivago seizes upon, drawing it up into his own lines. Hopefully, she'll tag him for her next release as well, though I have no doubt that whatever she does, it'll be just as enticing as this foray. And even more so.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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