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Scott Albert Johnson - Umbrella Man

Umbrella Man, the first release by Jackson, Mississippi-based singer-songwriter Scott Albert Johnson, is a bit of a tricky album to write about. Not because it doesn’t have a lot of quality material on it—it does—but because it takes a jolting turn well into the cut list. I was all set to write, “Summertime is almost here, and here is the perfect collection for a long, slow summer…,” but as I got closer to the end….. More on that as you read on.

It is good to get to review a disk with virtually all original material, especially when it’s all quality stuff.

Umbrella Man, recorded at four different studios in Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans over a span of three years, and featuring a variety of backing musicians, offers up ten cuts, nine of which are Scott Albert Johnson originals. Most of the cuts are good, easy listenin’ blues or soft jazz, tailor-made for a hot summer evening. Here’s a look at what we found:

Cut one, “Spaceship,” is a non-sensible but lyrically clever song about hopping on the old space ship and escaping, all done in a pleasant New Orleans shuffle style. Next comes “Turn Out Fine,” a Little Feat style, almost improvisational jam featuring a wide-ranging harmonica solo, all as a tribute to seeing an old girl friends who, as the title suggests, turned out just fine. Following is Wynton Marsalis’ “In the Court of the King,” a breezy harmonica instrumental featuring the laid-back keyboard stylings of Mike Hood and the complimentary stand-up bass of Jason Stewart.

“What About Your Man?” conjures up images of Robert Cray as Johnson segues into the first real blues song on Umbrella Man in a song about our sometimes confusing inability to avoid temptation. “Hollywood” is next, a thoughtful song about chasing dreams—and the occasional consequences. “Hollywood” is easily the strongest and most commercial song on the disk, and if Randy Newman were to get tired of writing his own stuff….

Finding one’s roots and trying to re-learn some of life’s lessons is the theme of “Magnolia Road.” Then Johnson picks up the tempo with “The Yuppie Husband’s Lament,” a wailing blues number about dumping your cheating old lady and bailing out—in your BMW!

Next is “Walkabout.” Here’s where the disk begins to take a somewhat unpleasant turn. “Walkabout” is an unusual sounding instrumental featuring Phil Jones on the Didgeridoo, a traditional Australian wind instrument. Light up the bong and lava lamp…. Then comes the title song. “Umbrella Man” starts with some heavy-sounding guitar licks and ends up making you wonder when he’s gonna go shoot up the local post office. Frankly it’s a bit disturbing, although well done and thought provoking. Both “Walkabout” and “Umbrella Man” are interesting songs, but to me, they just don’t seem to fit the overall tone of this collection.

The disk ends with “The Best of Me,” a transition back to light blues, or even folk music, as Johnson sings of leaving something of value to the next generation from the troubles of the current generation. It’s a nice one to wrap up the CD.

If you’re into harmonica blues and having some summertime fun, this one may be for you. And if there’s some cuts on it you don’t like, with today’s technology you can just zap the cuts you don’t want when you download Umbrella Man to your I-Pod. That’s what I’ll probably do! One and a half Jax Beers up for Umbrella Man.

By Rob Paullin

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