Moses Atwood CD Release
Co-bill with Johnson’s Crossroad
Asheville’s Moses Atwood will be teaming up with Johnson’s Crossroad for a Co-Bill at the Lexington Ave. Brewery on Friday, March 30th.
Moses will be celebrating the release of his NEW album One Bright Boat. Joining Moses for his set will be Dave Mack on bass, Jacob Baumann on Drums, Evan Martin on Guitar, and other special guests! Moses will also be sitting in with Johnson’s Crossroad (JXR) for a song or two.
Johnson’s Crossroad has a lot in store this year and are going to be heading back in the studio to record a 3rd album. Their 2011 release Mockingbird was voted #7 on WNCW’s Top 20 Regional Albums! Having played around 140 shows in 2011, they continue on their travels and are performing Merlefest for the 3rd year in a row and were added to the John Hartford Memorial Fest in IN and Band Lands Bluegrass in WV in 2012!
*** ***** ***
Moses Atwood sets sail with sophomore effort, One Bright Boat
It’s been four years since singer/songwriter Moses Atwood (also known for his work with Johnson’s Crossroad and The Overflow Jug Band) released his self-titled debut. That was in 2008; suddenly last fall Atwood decided it was time to put together his new collection of songs, One Bright Boat. So he rounded up a group of musicians and headed to Waking Studio, the new digs of Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog) in Philadelphia. There, Atwood and company knocked out the nine tracks in a mere week. The songs, he says, were culled from the years since his first album. While some date back to when he lived in Maine, most were written in North Carolina over the last few years.
Atwood choose Waking Studio because he wanted to take his musicians (including Michael Libramento of Floating Action) out of their routines. And it was time: “I’d found so many ways of circumventing the actual making of the record that I was like, ‘book the dates, get the people and do it.'” A week is a push, but, Atwood says, “Limitations are a really valuable thing in any artistic process — how many limitations and how you impose them is the trick.”
One Bright Boat doesn’t sound pressured or hurried. It opens with rollicking piano, the easy jingle of tambourine and tasteful flourishes of guitar. Atwood’s voice is what colors in the picture, relaxed and rich, rising effortlessly in a warm baritone.
“I’m tired of being the sad man, tired of all the sad songs. I’m tired of living my life like I’ve done something wrong,” he imparts on the spirit-lifting, cloud- parting title track.
If Atwood’s first record paid homage to his troubadour heroes (Woody Guthrie, Utah Phillips), One Bright Boat is less road-weary and more refined as Atwood leaves the minstrel role for that of bandleader in the style of Van Morrison and Randy Newman.
Running like a current through the record is Atwood’s talent for telling a story in fleeting images and washes of sound. These aren’t ballads but modern song-sketches of places longed for and passed through, people met and parted with, time passing. There’s space on each track — an easy flow of tides and waltzes (“California”), of pedal steel accents and Atwood’s comfortable flannel- and-bourbon vocal polished with (on “At Last”) gospel and brass.
“In recording, I feel like you’re recreating or capturing a moment in time,” says Atwood. “With modern recording you’re at constant great risk of losing the value of the moment, losing the essence of what you’ve got going on. But if you go all for capturing the moment, you don’t have a record, you just have a live performance. There’s a balance that the best records achieve.”
For a young artist, Atwood comes admirably close to that balance. It’s an album that rings both fresh and familiar, of-a-time and timeless. With One Bright Boat, Atwood’s ship comes in.
*** ***** ***
Johnson’s Crossroad has been described by friends and fans as everything from “Appalachian Soul” to “Hillbilly Metal.”
The band blends blues, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, and Appalachian Old Time for a sound that The Daily Times’ Steve Wildsmith calls “both mournful and jubilant, breezy and graveyard serious.” He goes on to comment that frontman Paul Johnson’s voice “barely rises above a growl, but he stretches that sound to encompass the experience of a train-hopping hobo and the wisdom of an old man recalling loves lost and wars fought from the porch of a backwoods cabin.”
Their 2011 album Mockingbird puts songwriter Paul Johnson in line with names like Guy Clark or Zac Brown and his powerful voice evokes memories of folk stars like Taj Mahal or Burl Ives. The Wilmington Star News describes, “It’s gruff and easygoing, like a mix of Tom Waits and Ben Knox Miller of The Low Anthem.“ AmericanaUKexclaims, “With ‘Mockingbird’ Johnson’s Crossroad seem to have just proved themselves to be one of the finest Roots rockers around right now.” The album was voted the #7 Regional albums of 2012 by WNCW!
The sincerity of Johnson’s songs and simplicity of his lyrics make you want to pour a brew, put your feet up or head to the hills. Asheville’s Bold Life call the band a “treat to see live” and says that, “Paul Johnson has a knack for creating powerful visuals with straightforward lyrics.” Dobro, mandolin and fiddle back up Johnson’s clean lyrics on some, other times its simple finger picking to a folksong.
“I like to keep the words simple,” said Paul Johnson. “I try and follow Hank Williams as much as possible, let the words tell the story and the music back it up,” Johnson said. His inspiration is simple yet intently focused. “I was born in the mountains of West Virginia, I’ve always been in the mountains all my life,” said Johnson who now calls Asheville, NC home.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do, travel around and pick guitar,” said Johnson, who writes the majority of the songs for Johnson’s Crossroad. Watching his back is mandolin player Keith Minguez, a strong friendship at the core of the group.
“In 1998 I met Paul and I saw John Hartford on my first visit to MerleFest, it was life changing” said Minguez. Then in 2004 he had enough, “I was 30, living in Florida, drinking with my dad’s buddies and they all said the same thing, ‘drink scotch and water and never stop chasing your dream.’” He called Paul and in 13 hours was at his door with mandolin in hand. “If Keith wasn’t around nothing would get done,” laughed Johnson. Friends Corey Lee McQuade (Dobro, banjo, harmonies) and Moses Atwood (keyboard, Dobro, harmonies) sit in on variety of gigs, and often other friends join in support Johnson’s constant search for great sound.
The band is returning to Blue Ridge Big Sky Music Studio (appropriately topping a peak above Moravian Falls, NC) to record their 3rd album in 2012. Who could resist after the experience they had last time around? It’s where they’re comfortable, it’s where everything is comfortable. Making music with friends, fans and family. At the studio, it’s a drive to the county line to get a little cell reception and distraction is not so digital, just were they need to be. They are looking for an early 2013 release and will be spending time over the summer and fall getting the next one just right, working again with John Adair as Engineer and Producer.
Since their first album Blood in Black and White they’ve won spots at national events like Merlefest, Floyd Fest, Music City Roots and Bristol Rhythm and Roots, with tours to the Northeast and Midwest that continue throughout 2012. Years playing the road to empty rooms have passed. Johnson’s Crossroad travels on with over 150 shows and a world of mountains ahead to climb.
*** ***** ***
Check out this video of Moses with JXR performing the song “Louisiana” that is on One Bright Boat.