The Johnstons,
The Transatlantic Years
(Demon, 1992)

The Transatlantic label was pivotal in promoting great folk music, especially that emanating from Ireland. One of the greatest of the many groups featured was the Johnstons, who actually won a ballad contest in my hometown many decades ago. This CD features tracks from various albums released in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Hear the Johnstons once and you will never mistake them for anyone else. They have a unique sound born of talent and a love of what they are performing. The material may range from traditional Irish to Joni Mitchell but the commitment is the same.

Theirs is the definitive guitar and mandolin version of the fantastic "O'Carolans Concerto." Listen to "Lark in the Morning" and recognise that distinctive voice of Paul Brady.

On this CD they take their standards such as "Dublin Jack of All Trades" and "Apprentice Song" and remind us of why the folk genre exploded on the scene four decades ago. Here are traditional and new songs that have lyrics that tell tales and tunes to stir the blood. They also provide great versions of Leonard Cohen masterpieces such as "The Story of Isaac" and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now." Then they can take you on a melodious singalong with "You Keep Going Your Way."

Their tale of "The Barleycorn" is a classic that has yet to be bettered. For those who are unaware of it, this is a traditional song detailing the biography of barley seed through distilling to that final destination of the tot of whiskey.

"Marcie" features the voice of Adrienne Johnston on a song seldom heard today -- a fact that tells us what we are missing in 2004. Adrienne was to have some great releases as a solo artist.

This CD is an essential chapter in folk music of Ireland and the world. God, how we were blessed with talent and ability in the 1960s!

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 24 July 2004