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ROBB JOHNSON "Invisible People" Irregular Records IRR029

He pins his colours to the mast. Here is a champion of the working classes, a student of the woebegone and poet laureate to the sad and lonely. He's not exactly a bundle of laughs, is our Robb. That said no one does these jobs with more style, wit and pure poetry. He can be obtuse at times, but that is expected of poets these days; the intellectual classes tend to equate clarity with banality.

Like most quality artistes Mr Johnson has his foibles. One of these is a penchant for bass and drums as accompaniments for songs which, in this writer's opinion, would be better served by less aggressive sounds. His strength lies in his words and these are heard to their best advantage with one voice and one guitar, as the opening track, "Me and the Working Man", bears witness. Robb hasn't got the greatest voice in the world but he is a very good, expressive singer, and he is more than competent on the guitar.

The best of the rhythmic romps is "Invisible People". Here the heavy brigade in the back line is supplemented by Robb's bouzouki and Terry Mann's melodeon. The engaging result is best described as Parisian café, reggae music with Brechtian flavoured words. Lovely stuff. He also pays a visit to the Greek Islands with a charming vignette called "The Last Girl on the Beach". However, for me the killer track is "The Favourite Story". I've heard it several times now and it never fails to move me.

Yes, there is no doubt that Robb Johnson is up there with the best of our contemporary muses, and looking over his shoulder at not a few of them.

Mike Raven

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.