Steve Johnson: vocals
Eamon O’Leary: acoustic guitar, bouzouki, fretless 5-string banjo
Lisa Gutkin: baritone violin, harmony vocals
Patrick Ourceau: fiddle
Christopher Layer: flute
Buddy Connolly: accordion
Sara Milonovich: viola, harmony vocals
Natalie Haas: cello
Abbie Gardner: lap steel guitar
Greg Anderson: piano, keyboards, ebow

A New Yorker now residing in Brooklyn, Steve Johnson started learning American, Irish, and Scottish traditional songs in the 1970s by attending sessions at folk clubs and pubs, a fairly common path for someone coming to traditional music from the outside. What is not so common is the quality of Johnson's voice, a low, rich, reedy without being overly edgy, velvety instrument which creates an intimate soundscape and utterly captivates the listener from the first note. Johnson cites Mick Flynn, Joe Heaney, and Paddy Tunney as his main Irish influences, and indeed his own singing style has an undeniably traditional character. He seems to favor the slower, melancholic ballads, which are perfect for his voice, and while some of the songs recorded here are very well known, he stays away from the more obvious big hits. Most of the songs are Irish, but Johnson also includes a couple of songs from the American tradition as well as a Scottish one, all very successfully. Credit must go to the producers-- who in addition to Johnson include Eamon O'Leary and Greg Anderson-- and all the accompanists who did a terrific job to stay out of the way of Johnson's voice. Despite the long list of instruments employed, the arrangements and textures remain sparse but always wonderfully evocative--one of the more involved ones is perhaps that for "Buffalo Skinners," where bluesy fiddle and fretless 5-string banjo help the listener make the aural transition from one side of the Atlantic to the other. One of my favorite textures explored here remains the simple pairing of Johnson's voice with Natalie Haas' cello--although Lisa Gutkin's baritone violin achieves a similarly heavenly marriage of sounds. If there were to be an example of how to do more with less, this is it. Understatement made into an art form. What an amazing performance! I hope Johnson, despite his reluctance to record, can be persuaded to come back into the studio soon, I'll be first in line for his next album

Rating: **** 1/2

Price: $16.99
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See also:
   Patrick Ourceau & Eamon O'Leary: Live at Mona's
1. The Labouring Man's Daughter
2. The American Stranger
3. The Mountain Streams where the Moorcocks Crow
4. The Factory Girl
5. Lone Shanakyle
6. Molly Bawn
7. Buffalo Skinners
8. Blackwater Side
9. The Rocks Of Bawn
10. Wake Up Little Maggie
11. The Shores Of Lough Bran
12. Prince Charlie Stuart
13. Lowlands
14. The Boys of Barr na Sráide