The Woody Johnson Free Press

VOL. 1 -- NO. 2CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADASaturday, July 13, 2024

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This Week's

Parade of Song

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Woody Johnson

Releases New


Woody Johnson CD Cover

High marks from critics

Ron Burd
(CIUT Toronto) says
"[Johnson] has included a fine collection of songs superbly recorded"

Hollis Morgan, Producer


Woody Johnson's first full length independent release is an engaging journey into America's past. The first track, Rev. Gary Davis' Feel Like Just Goin' On, establishes Woody's driving, flat-picking style. While on the second track he introduces his highly rhythmic finger-picking style. Alternating these two very different styles held my interest right to the end. Regardless of the approach, Johnson's guitar playing is always accomplished and interesting. And when you add in his raspy yet warm voice, this CD is a treat for any old-time blues aficionado.

Several of the songs, such as James Whitcomb Riley's poem The Raggedy Man and Paul Laurence Dunbar's Angelina Johnson, are very old poems to which Johnson has creatively added his own music. I hope Johnson continues this work in future because the result is quite engaging.

There are several traditional songs arranged in new and original ways. These include Hammerin' Steel, The Ballad of Jesse James (a version seldom, if ever, recorded), and Levee Moan.

The penultimate track, Lord, I Got A Hellhound On My Trail, is a slow and moving original composition sung acapella. This song sounds so old I had to check again to make sure it was Johnson who wrote it. Then the lively and charming Angelina Johnson wraps it up. This is the only track where Johnson receives accompaniment, in this case from yours truly, old-time banjo player and producer.

Well done Woody. This one will stay in my rotation for a long time.

The Ballad of John Hardy

Rare EP to be

Research Leads to Original Music Created for Old Poetry

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Woody Johnson's first release in early 2008 had only three tracks: his musical settings for poems by James Edwin Campbell, George Marion McClellan, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. The response to this slim showcase was immediate - a spot in the 2008 Ottawa Folkfest.

Now back in Ottawa, Johnson is working with producer Hollis Morgan at Constant Sound Studio to expand this EP to a full CD release. Says Johnson, “I have many more songs in this genre ready to record. And I have collected some more beautiful poetry by other 19th Century poets and added it to my collection. We plan to have a complete CD ready in the near future...”

With this body of work, Johnson moves beyond scholarly research into the arena of creative artist. While reviving a genre that virtually died out a century ago, it's influence on his own writing is tangible. Compare Johnson's poem I Ain't Lookin' at the Moon No More to James Edwin Campbel's Uncle Eph's Banjo Song and it is easy to see how well he has learned from the old masters.

Johnson's fans - old and new - eagerly await his next release.

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