Jeremy Johnson “Insecuriosity” (Independent, 2019)

If you saw the album’s cover and then just heard ‘A Song For Agnes’, ‘Unrelenting’ and ‘The King And The Thief’, the first three tracks of Jeremy Johnson’s debut studio album ‘Insecuriosity’ you’d think here was a traditional English folk troubadour following in the storytelling footsteps of the likes of Nick Drake, Richard Thompson, Ralph McTell and Clifford T Ward – even the titles sound like folk songs. However, when you get to the fourth track on the album ‘I Roam’, everything changes – the album throws the listener a curveball and there’s suddenly a funky bass intro, drums and a distinctly pop feel to the track. This continues with ‘Runaway Train’ which features drums, bass and electric guitar and ‘Predictable’ another track with a pop sensibility.

The album almost gets back to a folk feel with the seventh track ‘Just Be’ which has a shuffling, folky feel – it has an almost sixties skiffle sound to it. This is followed by ‘Little Bit of Light’ a real oddity with its funky bass, wah-wah guitar and some brass too.

Johnson’s voice has some strange EQ applied to it which is a shame as he has a very distinctive and interesting voice and it gets somewhat lost in the mix. Then for the last two tracks, it’s back to the folk feel with on ‘Time’ the penultimate track, which features acoustic guitar, some very pretty strings and Johnson sounding like he’s channelling the late, great Clifford T Ward which is no bad thing. On the final track ‘On Our Way’, we’re back to traditional-sounding folk and there are references in the lyrics to princes and thrones and it even begins with the sound of birdsong which is apt as the album was recorded in two studios, Decoy and Old Jet, in bucolic Suffolk.

As Johnson says “It’s a pretty diverse album covering a number of genres” and it certainly is that which is a shame as the folk side of his writing and singing is far stronger than the four tracks that veer away from that genre and sound overproduced, whilst the folkier songs sound natural and unforced.

Johnson has a superb voice which really shines through on songs like ‘Time’ and ‘Unrelenting’ but gets buried in a load of vocal effects on ‘Little Bit of Light’ which is a shame. His range goes from light tenor to deep sonorous tones which works well with his often melancholic and very personal lyrics. Apart from that, the production is excellent, and Johnson is ably backed by James Brown on drums, Craig Rattray on bass, Eliza Burkitt on violin, Taylor Moulton on trumpet and Marije de Vries whose delightful voice can be heard at its best on the opening track where it’s heavily featured.

On the majority of tracks on the album, Johnson sounds like the kind of old-fashioned nomadic troubadour who in years gone by would travel the country by road, thumbing a lift with a guitar on their back or in Johnson’s case in a camper van called ‘Greenie’. It’s just a shame that the tracks that veer away from folk don’t really work as well as the ones that carry on the folk tradition that Johnson is so very good at.

What could have been a delightful English folk album loses its way on some tracks

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