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ROBB JOHNSON - "Overnight" - Irregular IRR027

The songs of Robb Johnson have become standards on the folk scene because of their directness; their ability to call a spade a spade and confront unpalatable truths head on. It is strange to encounter his earlier work, quieter, full of shades of meaning, open to interpretations. It is such a drastic change in writing style it could almost be a different person.

This introspective Johnson does have all the strengths of the more outgoing writer of the 90s. He has re-recorded some of his earliest work, along with a few new songs. The title song "Overnight", with its apparent references to the Holocaust, and warnings about the reawakening of fascism, is a classic. There is much more hidden away inside it. Johnson's cutting observation is there, as in the tale of the starry-eyed lover bringing "Valentines and Garfields" to the heroine of "Fairy Tales in Feltham" and its sequel "Rehoused in Hounslow", and in his hilarious observations on primary school children in "Orange Class News", where he deals with the love of children without slipping into mawkishness, and also makes a telling point that it would 'be so nice if every kid only ever made the news how Orange Class did".

There's a reprise for "Vic Williams", "The Last Time I Saw Paris" and "Young Don't Have to Say Goodbye"; fourteen songs in all. Wonderful stuff.

Bob Harragan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 22 of The Living Tradition magazine.