Victor Johnson “January Blossom”

Independent, 2023

Bold 22-song collection from Oregon multi-instrumentalist.

The notion of releasing a double album is an interesting one. For so many musicians the challenges of Covid and lockdown meant that many were in the studio creating far more extensively than they might have imagined pre-Covid. In recent years the likes of Wilco, Johnny Marr and Big Thief have released double albums – many gaining critical acclaim.

So the decision of Bend, Oregon-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Johnson to release a 22-track, double album, with many of the songs lasting six or seven minutes, is a bold one indeed. Johnson plays most of the instruments and he’s a superb musician, and is also joined by David Miller on lead guitar for one track; Sonja Bohr plays violin on a track; David Watts plays bass on a track and Johnny Springer plays drums on all songs.

But this is mostly 22 tracks of Johnson’s mystical and elegiac song-writing, taking the listener on an emotional journey covering love, loss and the beauty of nature.

It’s such a shame, therefore, to report that these highly personal songs are pleasant – but sadly nothing more than that. Johnson has a distinctive vocal style, which one needs to get used to, But at over 100 minutes it’s just a little too ambitious. Opener ‘Head Over Heels‘ has a chunky electric guitar vibe; ‘January Blossom’ is a vibrant and stirring song with lovely backing vocals from Laurel Barnum; ‘January Valentine’ has a lovely spring in its step; and  ‘Slow Winding Roads’ has some stirring guitar work and infectious piano.

But the remaining songs are heartfelt, but a little ordinary. It would have benefitted so much with a little judicious editing and the listening experience would have undoubtedly been enhanced. It’s a  shame because Johnson is really talented, but it bodes well for the future.


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