The CD: “The Gold Album”
The debut solo CD by Jackson County’s Justin Johnson, the former lead singer of Dog Soldier, is a solid effort, with eight primo cuts of alt-rock angst featuring Johnson’s epic voice fronting some first-class musicianship. Sounding like a cross between 1980s-era Peter Gabriel mixed with Eddie Vedder and just a dash of Robert Plant, Johnson has delivered a soulful collection of anthemic ballads that have a timeless quality to them.
Standout tracks include “Easterlily,” in which Johnson comes across as a smoother-sounding Tom Waits as he bitterly laments a lost love. “Goldtown Hotel” broadens the sonic palette a bit, with some great guitar and percussion work backing up Johnson’s amazing voice. “Honor Song” wraps up the album in style, starting out as a traditional-sounding ballad before transforming into a stark percussion and voice crescendo that ends with an impressive CD-closing coda.
If there is a weakness to “The Gold Album,” it’s the consistency. While musically excellent throughout, Johnson doesn’t vary the tempo much. Having seen him incite crowds to near-riot status on stage with his former band, it’s a bit disappointing to see him sounding so subdued on this recording. He is quite capable of ripping into high-octane rock ‘n’ roll. It would have been nice to see some of that energy captured on disc. As it is, I’m eager to see how Johnson transforms these tunes into live performances.
“The Gold Album” is a strong debut that only hints at the talents of its creator. I have a feeling that we’re going to be hearing a lot from Justin Johnson in the years to come, since it seems that he’s keeping a few cards up his sleeve for future projects.