The Johnstons

Colours of the Dawn

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The Johnstons' fifth album was the last to include Mick Moloney in the lineup, and devoted half to original material (composed by Paul Brady and/or non-groupmember Chris McCloud) and half to covers of songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Peggy Seeger, and Ian Campbell. The absence of any traditional folk songs gives this a more contemporary feel than much of their earlier work, though the arrangements are pretty acoustic-dominated. It's not an exciting album, but it's nice close-harmony contemporary folk, someone in the manner of a hipper Seekers or British Isles Peter, Paul & Mary. McCloud's "Crazy Anne" might be of interest to Leonard Cohen obsessives as a song that bears extreme resemblance to Cohen's early work, and "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" is (like the Johnstons' earlier cover of Cohen's "The Story of Isaac") a very good interpretation of the noted singer/songwriter. Just a touch of folk-rock influence can be heard in the original songs and the occasional more forceful guitar lines, as on Brady's "Brightness, She Came." McCloud's "Angela Davis" puts the story of the controversial activist into a setting very much like a traditional Irish folk song, and while Ian Campbell's "Old Man's Tale" has by far the most trad arrangement, it's given a contemporary kick by an unexpected reference to Vietnam near the end.

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