Johnny Dickinson

Live Review | The Regent, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Johnny has one of the strongest Northumberland accents and therefore cannot come within a light year of fooling anyone of his roots.  He creates his own take on the blues by reconstructing everything he plays in his own distinctive style; it’s almost like listening to Paul Rogers playing in the style of Ry Cooder with a Martin Simpson sense of clarity thrown in for good measure.  Johnny Dickinson appears to have come a long way since his support spot at the Lonsdale here in Doncaster, with a main stage appearance at the 2005 Cambridge Folk Festival under his belt, albeit a Sunday lunchtime slot which to any self-respecting bluesman is an unthinkable time of day.  This is night time music and the later the better.  His crystal clear bottleneck playing together with a soothing unaffected vocal delivery makes for all that is good about the blues.  His treatment of traditional ballads and tunes from nearer to home is where Johnny differs from the rest.  “She Moves through the Fair” has never been played with so much eloquence.  “Beach Road” from his Castles and Old Kings album set the standard of emotive playing for the night and paved the way for beautiful readings of such songs as “Black Jack Davy”, “Jock O Hazeldene” and “The Rowan Tree”.  Towards the end of his second set, Johnny by his own admission, collapsed into a busking approach and the over-long and amnesia drenched “Werewolves of London” could’ve done with a silver bullet, not least to stop Warren Zevon spinning in his grave, but it was fun nevertheless.  His encore of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” played as a tango was a treat, despite the impromptu duet between him and a member of the audience on jew’s harp at Johnny’s request.  Could things be more surreal?