Kody's Country Review -“Rowdy Johnson (The Nordic Recording Sessions Vol.1)” by Kody McDowell
The anything but ordinary new EP release “Rowdy Johnson (The Nordic Recording Sessions Vol.1)” carries us on a voyage of emotion as this album is as real as it gets. This EP was not recorded in a contemporary way, instead the magic was recorded with a single mic set-up capturing Rowdy’s vocals and guitar live in a single take. Bass and lead instruments added after the fact, keeping it simple and raw. Together with vintage mics and analog technology you get the true feel for what this EP is all about. After three previous albums with The Rowdy Johnson Band, this is the first taste of Johnson’s music as a solo artist. Recorded entirely at Nordic Recording Studio in Mesa, Arizona by Deano Engebretson who Produced, Engineered, and Mastered the project masterfully. The reverb and subtle hum you hear in the intros and outros are impeccable and deliver this EP to a whole new level. It is as REAL as it gets. All songs in this collection were written by Rowdy Johnson, apart from “So Good Woman” which is an old Waylon favorite.
Set to release on December 18, 2020, the full EP consists of six songs and kicks off with “Aint No Outlaw” featuring Billie Gant on verse 3 and Dallas Moore on verse 4, which also includes Deano Engebretson on kick drum (who also played a key role as producer/Engineer.) This track comes to me as a tribute to the lost but not forgotten heroes of Country music and how some claim to be like them, with the exception of taking the easy road, Unlike the Independent artist who needs no studio tricks and has nothing to hide. Rowdy Johnson presents to us a moderately paced melody with gritty vocals that are comparable to that of old school country music, with a modern--day attitude with lyrics such as “I aint no outlaw, neither are you” and “I’m here to do things my way and sing my own damn songs”. The single “ Aint No Outlaw” is set to release on October 16Th, 2020, so be on the lookout for that.
Subsequently, the track “So Good Woman,” is a song some will recognize as it is a Waylon Jennings Tune and is also one of Rowdy Johnson’s favorite Waylon songs. He brought this beautiful song to another level as he made it his own with beautiful vocals and a tempo a bit faster than the original. This song expresses the feelings of a man who seems to have lost his way at times, but has a woman who has stuck by him as we hear in the lyrics “I run around most of my life, you coulda done better girl, you’ve been a good wife”
“Call Me Back Home” tells us a story of a young man growing up in a small southern town and leaving home as he becomes an adult with all the struggles of raising a family of his own and becoming independent. He communicates to us a feeling of how home seems to fade to the back of our minds, but when things get tough, we want to go back to that simpler time as explained to us in the lyrics “ now the phone calls and letters just aint enough to get me through the hard times when the going gets tough”. This song embodies a graceful harmony with appealing vocals that at once had me singing and swaying along with every strum of the guitar.
Next up in the lot is track 4, Layin Back These Days, which has a distinctive sound of the way country music was done years ago that so many strive to achieve these days yet fall short, but not Rowdy. The sweet sound of Pedal Steel paired with the lead guitar and astounding vocals captures the listeners attention right off the bat. In this song Rowdy Johnson paints the picture of a musician who has decided to lay down his old ways with lyrics such as, “I’m settling down my rough and rowdy ways.”
My personal favorite in the lot is track five “I’ll Go First” (featuring Kathy Johnson). Rowdy Johnson wrote this song for his wife Kathy many years ago with an idea to illustrate the ultimate love song which has an incredibly special meaning to them personally. It takes us through a journey from childhood love, through marriage and death. Johnson’s wife Kathy survived late stage breast cancer, which brings the last verse of this track to a different meaning as it was almost a real-life event. Having his wife Kathy join him in singing this song means more to him than any other songs he has previously recorded, and. it comes through the speakers.
Lastly, track six “This Biker’s Vest” is one that pays homage to the biker and the vest that they proudly wear as a symbol of respect. This song is a narrative of sorts which depicts a group of bikers who walk into a bar and are met with judgmental patrons who are not so welcoming to their kind and ask them to leave. After standing ground for what they believe in by saying “We all fought and bled so you can be free, and this vest right here means the world to me and these patches I wear tell the story of my life, well I earned them all and you can damn sure bet it's gonna take all y'all to whip this Vet". In the end they have earned the respect that they demand. This track features Jim Bachmann on Guitar and Bass which flow perfectly with the storytelling of this song. This song has a remarkably similar feel to that of Chris Ledoux’s “This Cowboy’s Hat” which Rowdy says was no accident. He definitely tips his own hat to LeDoux in this one.
From start to finish this album held my attention and the dynamic of the whole album was that of the outlaw country genre. I highly recommend that you mark the release dates listed below on your calendar, as you won't want to miss this.
What is next for Rowdy Johnson? Expect to see Vol. 2, which is the follow up EP. It will include as the first single a Billy Don Burns song “It Will Kill Mama” sang by Rowdy Johnson and Dallas Moore.
Written by Kody McDowell