Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson
Despite the use of such song titles as “New York Tooth and Claw”, a three-page gatefold centre spread depicting a sprawling desert road that goes on forever and a rusty old Texan water tower dominating the cover, Johnny Steinberg is a Yorkshireman who claims to be “a huge fan of Neil Young and Yorkshire Tea either separately or together”. The ten songs that make up this well-travelled troubadour’s debut album are universal and any such geographical claims seem redundant. Recorded in Nashville, the UK and Denmark, Shadowland demonstrates an assured approach to songwriting of a universal nature, which is all the more impressive if we consider Johnny’s background, having only relatively recently fallen into music after facing redundancy from the day job. These are like songs on the road and of the road.
With both Boo Hewerdine and Chris Pepper on board, the songs have a quality one has come to expect from such exalted musical company. When seated at the piano we hear Johnny’s sensitive side, especially on “Set Sail and Go” and the closing song “England”. Kira Small’s voice provides an empathetic counterpart to Johnny’s world weary vocal, as does Carol Lea on “Man on Wire” and indeed Kate Heaton on “New York Tooth and Claw”, a song embellished with Chris Pepper’s Robert Fripp-like E Bow guitar ala “Heroes”.
Choice Track: Dance Away the Darkness (NSV 507)