Earlier this summer, Glace Bay songwriter and musician, Doug Johnson, released his new CD album, Loose Lips, after almost seven years away from the recording studio.
“I didn’t have anything to say,” Johnson says about his recording hiatus. “I thought making another album was something I’d never do again.”
But after joining some other musically inclined friends on a visit to the East Coast Music Association conference a couple of months ago in Charlottetown, hearing new acts, sitting in on some panel discussions, his songwriting impulse returned.
He wrote a variety of tunes like the title track, a good love gone bad jazz ballad, and the CD’s opener, “Nature’s Beauty”, an environmental protest song. The other eleven tracks cover a variety of styles from folk to bossa nova to rock. Johnson’s lyrics are clever and insightful, and his melodies are clean and memorable. He also included a couple of infectious instrumental tracks.
Loose Lips was recorded at Lakewind Studios with Colin Grant (playing some swinging Latin fiddle tracks) and two members of Grant’s band, Donnie Calabrese on bass and Colin Clarke on drums.
“I gave a homemade CD to Colin,” Johnson says describing the process. “We had three rehearsals, and three and a half days in the studio–so it’s pretty much live.”
There is nothing raw or “loose” sounding about the final product though: Johnson’s arrangements are tight and inventive and his side musicians bring expression to their contributions.
Johnson has been gigging since the mid-1970’s, often as a sideman for singer/songwriter Ernie Laidlaw. He was a member of Rita MacNeil’s first band (he’s the blond unbearded chap on the album cover). He studied classical music at Dalhousie University and if anyone is looking for a lute player, Johnson’s the go to man. As a cast member of “Spirit Of The Island”, he showed he could dance a mean hornpipe.
And, as recent solo appearance at the Wentworth Perk Coffee Shop proved, he’s capable of being a dynamic one man rock show.
Johnson has also performed with Bill Appleby as DougBill Platypus, as a sideman with Wally MacAuly and with the traditional band Yardarm. His other recordings include a 6 song ep CD, Souped (1995) and the full length CD, Upbeat Beatnik (2004).
Johnson has placed Loose Lips in a few area gift and music shops, like the Cape Breton Curiosity Shop on Sydney’s Charlotte Street, but the best place to get one (and copies of his other CDs) will be on Tuesday, August 23, when he returns for a 6 pm show at Wentworth Perk In Sydney. You can also sample some tunes at reverbnation.com.