‘East Anglian Girl’ from Holly Johnston – profoundly individual, emotional songs(December 23, 2013)
I must confess, the album ‘East Anglian Girl’ is the first I’ve heard of Holly Johnston, and I cannot imagine why. With her obvious gift for writing profoundly individual, emotional songs and delivering them through pure, passionate, expressive vocals it is frankly unthinkable that Holly could keep that talent hidden away.
Apparently, Holly released a debut album over ten years ago, which gained considerable recognition – no surprises there. Then she left her audience waiting for the follow up – probably in disbelief that such a travesty could occur. Never mind, for those that know her work there’s the delicious anticipation for the release of ‘East Anglian Girl’ in January 2014, and for those that don’t a significant treat awaits.
Possessing an instant attraction, ‘Read me A Story’ opens the album and tells its achingly elemental human story, with unerring accuracy. The sweetly painful, mortal truth that Holly puts into her songs makes them striking - messages of experience, memories shared and hauntingly exact observations – one person sharing incidents and encounters that touch everyone. Listen to ‘Maybe You Would Be’ and ‘Watch Them Fall’ or the simple cello and piano delicacy of ‘Just Like That’ and you’ll hear what precisely I mean. There’s more desperately tender beauty in ‘Calling Her’, coming close to being my favourite track. Then again, there’s the poetic candour and pain of ‘Sorry John’ that cuts like a knife. Needing an exceptional voice to deliver its soul touching narrative while avoiding mawkishness – Holly quite simply nails this song to perfection.
Musicians playing on ‘East Anglian Girl’ are Holly Johnston (vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, organ) with Florian Sauvaire (drums) Chris Lockington (electric and acoustic guitars) Steve Mann (bass, mandolin, 12-string and acoustic guitars, organ, electric piano) Mike Summers (drums, Cajon drum) Belinda Shave (cello) Alex Richardson (violin).
‘East Anglian Girl’ releases on Backwater Records on 6 January 2014. Believe me, it takes a lot to move an old cynic, yet this album moved me. So after the festive season excesses take my advice, start the New Year off with a special treat, buy this album.
Reviewer: Charlie Elland