NOAH FRANCIS JOHNSON – Life & Times
aaamusic | On 22, Jan 2014
Noah Francis Johnson releases his debut album, Life & Times, in February this year. For him, it is a long awaited moment to finally portray an ‘authentic and honest account of [himself]’ through music. Having read his ‘Happy New Year 2014’ message on his website and listened to his debut album, it is clear that he is ready to put his all into this year and that he is a musician who is not afraid to pour his heart and soul out into his music.
The highly emotional album, Life & Times, provides the listener with a modern ‘in-the-moment’ take on many aspects of our musical heritage from the 20th century – poetic Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan-esque lyrics and vocal lines from the soul reminiscent of Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley. The pensive, reflective aspects of the album call to mind artists such as Coldplay and Radiohead and the threads of blues and folk which run throughout Noah’s debut work allow us to ground his music in the earth.
The variety of instruments, in particular the use of violin and cello which pull at the heartstrings, adds interest and an even deeper emotional pull to the music. Life & Times features percussionist Pandit Dinesh and engineer Edd Hartwell as well as guitarist, Gary Grainger who has worked with many prominent artists such as David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Pete Townsend who plays beautifully and accompanies Noah’s voice with a variety of styles. ‘Ballroom Blues’ works particularly well instrumentally; Noah’s delicate, breathy vocals are laced with Grainger’s finger picking and the simple cello line in the background gives us the rich, grounding force, so often associated with the instrument. The transition from common time to three four time at the end of the song is a nice finishing touch; the dreamy piano line effectively takes the listener waltzing off into the ballroom…
Life & Times is a well crafted album and is a moment in the life of Noah Francis Johnson which reflects his whole existence – a culmination of those days in Tigerbay as a boxer, singing in working men’s clubs, touring with other musicians, his love for his parents and siblings – but also the continuation of his journey through the world.