L.A.-based artist Jude Johnstone is an imaginative pianist and singer-songwriter. Johnstone just put out her sixth CD Shatter. This new on BoJak Records release includes 11 tracks of original material.
As usual Johnstone takes the lead on vocals and piano. She is backed by an assortment of other artists including some of the usual suspects such as Jon Ossman (bass) and Dan Savant (trumpet). The album opens on the titular track “Shatter”. While this song makes it obvious why it was selected as both lead-in and title track, the truth is it only hints at what is to come. It also includes Adam Gust (drums), Kris Hawkins and Andrew Synowiec (guitar), Charley Morillas (trombone), Radoslav Lorkovic (organ) and Maxayn Lewis on backup vocals.
The second selection, “What A Fool”, reveals a bit more about Johnstone not only as a musician and composer but as a lyricist as well. Here Johnstone adds the talents of David Ricketts (drums/bass/guitar/piano/samples) and backup vocals by Johnstone and the Pick-o-Lily's. The next number is “When Does Love Get Easier”. This one focuses on the all-too-real recount of an imperfect relationship and the struggle to find happiness. It’s highlighted by Kevin McCormick (bass), Peter White (guitar), Marc Macisso (saxophone), and Lewis and Ned Albright (backup vocals).
“The Underground Man” follows. This song, like the second track, was co-written with Ricketts. It has its own sound thanks in part to the addition of Brynn Albanese on violin and Bob Liepman on cello.
“Girl Afraid” is next. This one, too, appears to have a personal perspective to it. Musically, it too has its own identity due in part to Danny Frankel (cajón, bodhran and tambourine), Charles Duncan (acoustic guitar), Tim Young (electric guitar), Paddy Keenan (uilleann pipes and flute) and Ray Duncan on (backup vocals).
The themes of discovery, redemption and reflecting upon and questioning one’s life continue throughout the remainder of the recording as Johnstone breaks out “Alcohol”. While the effects of alcohol may not be a new angle, Johnstone still manages to own the idea and makes it her own in a piece that includes Darrell Voss on drums and percussion.
”Touchdown Jesus” is the seventh selection. This one was co-written with Lorkovic. Also included here are “Halfway Home” and “Who Could Ask For More” which are both further examples of Johnstone’s tuneful talents. The latter is highlighted by the addition of Ossman’s banjo, Young’s ukulele and Johnstone on pump organ.
“Your Side Of The Bed” follows here. This one takes “Critic’s Choice”. (It’s always nice when your randy writer’s talents inspire songs like this. Yeah . . . right!) Seriously, it’s a worthwhile sincere song nicely accented by Bob Liepman on cello.
The closing cut is “Free Man”. Backup vocalists on this track include not only Lewis but Duncan, McCormick, Kim Wagner and Stephen Soles.It’s an interesting, apt album end-note It’s an interesting, apt album end-noteIt’s an interesting, apt album end-noteIt’s an interesting, apt album end-note. While Johnstone did admit "it's (her) favorite thus far" she;s more willing to let the music speak for itself.
.it's my favorite work thus far, that's all I really know....it's my favorite work thus far One thing is certain, the project seems slightly different than Johnstone’s others. This one is unique both lyrically and musically. The stories are a bit more introspective than previous pieces.
Johnstone combines all of her influences and genres here. It’s a diverse collection and she unashamedly indulges in a lot of musical chairs-style genre-hopping moving from one type of tune to the next. Still, the truth is that the joy is in the journey and Johnstone isn’t even “Halfway Home”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.