09 November 2018 (released)
24 November 2018
Folk music is not a style so much as a way of telling histories and events and, while this is rarely in the classic ‘folk’ idiom, this is very much Folk.
Over three CDs, Robb Johnson tells of the life and times of his father through the end of the first world war and through to his death in 2013.
On its way he tells the tales of those returning from the ‘war to end all wars’ through the rise of fascism in the 30’s, the second world war, the welfare state or the rise of CND and the communist party in the 50’s, all around the focus on his father’s and his family history.
The three CDs span a long and eventful period but the core to the 50 songs and spoken word pieces is the sheer humanity of it all. Ron Johnson was not a mover or shaker, not one of those to be cast as the superstar in the movie of his life but these songs and pieces show him in the context of remarkable and earth-shattering events and allow him to emerge as a superstar in his own right.
You can get the sense of the changes that Britain moved through from the tales Johnson tells but he always seems to see the subtext that drove the stories. There are history and sociology lessons to be learned here but they have charm and gentle humour and you begin to see the characters as old friends.
The songs span many different styles but it is the tales they tell that is the heart of all of this.
Johnson is planning to perform this magnificent piece – or selected elements from it – and I suspect that in the live, theatrical, context it will be even more powerful. As it stands this is a work of incredible depth and meaning.