The Johnstons

The Johnstons/Give a Damn/The Barley Corn

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BGO's 2013 double-disc set groups together the first three albums by Irish folk trio the Johnstons: 1968's The Johnstons, 1969's Give a Damn, and The Barleycorn, which also came out in 1969. The first of these records is very much a straight-ahead folk effort, sounding as if it could've come out during the folk revival in the early '60s (despite their British Isles heritage, this LP sounds as if it could've come out somewhere in America in the years prior to Dylan's big breakthrough). Give a Damn has a slight pop patina, thanks to the preponderance of insistent production, soft full band arrangements, and the occasional cover of a new tune, such as Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" and Leonard Cohen's "Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye." This isn't as pure, but the attempts at broadening the group's sound result in a more varied record and arguably, a more enjoyable one as well. Although there are a few arrangements that flirt with the expansiveness of Give a Damn, The Barleycorn is a purer folk record consisting almost entirely of traditional tunes, which is perhaps the best showcase for this heartfelt trio of folk traditionalists.

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