Country music has a habit of taking itself a bit seriously, all those over-earnest, brooding acoustic guitar slingers singing of unrequited love, darker times and driving off into the sunset. And that’s fine, there is obviously a market for such a style. Rock music is often troubled with testosterone fuelled cliche, though which is less easy to defend. Blues often gets a bad name from stadium level guys in suits and shades removing every ounce of passion and pain from the genre in the name of money and fame…ironically the total opposite of the place from which blues speaks.
So if you cut all of those rotten cores out of the aforementioned generic apples and gather all the good bits that remain, you pretty much have the basic ingredients that Neil Gregory Johnson fashions his music from and Extended Play Catalogue Vol 1 is a lesson to anyone working in roots music today in vibrant and honest songwriting.
Kicking off with the joyous Three Days on The Wagon, the perfect blend of exactly the genre splicing I have just described, the song proves to be a great calling card for what is to follow. This opening salvo blends country swagger, blues sass and rock muscle, it grooves and grinds, bounces and boogies and the wailing train whistle harmonica is the perfect icing on the cake. From there we move through the move countrified, line-dancable beats of I Want To Drink a Beer With You, a celebration to wasting time in good company. Pure blues is served up with Loving and Leaving, a timeless piece that could fit into a set list any time from the late sixties onwards and Well Kept is slow country blues that fits effortlessly into both camps.
This is an album that could only have been made by someone who isn’t that beholdened to one genre or another, someone broad minded enough to realise that its all just music. It draws lines between the Austin blues bars of today and the cosmic cowboy scene of the early 70’s, between the Southern Rock of yesteryear and the modern alt-country of today, between Chicago blues bars and the freewheelin’ scene of his North Western home. It is rootless and out of time, it references rather than rehashes, tips its hat rather than plagiarises and although much is surely familiar, it is better described as truly original music forged from classic sounds.
More than anything else Extended Play Catalogue Vol 1 is a collection of songs for the everyday and the working man, the realities of life and its loves, loss and longing but also its beauty and celebration. It may come from a personal place but every word and sentiment found here is totally relatable to the listening public at large. This maybe the sound track to Johnson’s life, but in many ways it is the sound track to all our lives. Never has an ordinary life had a score so glorious.
Listen to and buy the album HERE