Title - AfterBurn: Folk at Arena Level
Artist - Michael Johnathon
For those not in the know, Michael Johnathon is not exactly a “normal” folksinger!
AfterBurn, his brand new album, releasing this May 2022, is the word used when something truly rattles the cages and leaves people with a startled, surprised reaction. It’s the accelerated power of a rocket as it is taking off.
The album AfterBurn does that with folk music. The recordings ignite the idea of “folk” from the coffeehouse and launches it to arena level. Forget the cliche of the folksinger sitting in some coffeehouse somewhere crooning about maidens, lost ships at sea and social causes.
“To me, folk music is front porch ... plus a lot more,” says Michael Johnathon from his log cabin home near Lexington, Kentucky. “I took everything I knew about life as a folksinger, from traveling the hills and hollers of Appalachia to playing on stages, turned it upside down, mixed it up, and tried to see how aggressive this “folk” canvas could be and still be considered part of the music style I love,” he smiles, broadly.
“That’s when I wrote that poem ... folk can be everything and anything because it gave birth to anything and everything.”
3. The World We Made
4. The Dream
5. Assassins In The Kingdom
6. Dreams of Fire
8. Young & Alone
9. Cyber Bubba
11. Shady Grove
This vibrantly aesthetic, pleasingly melodic and wholly heartfelt new recording opens on the rampant storytelling (here based on the classic Irish ballad Paddy Works the Railway) of Techno-Folk (which brings the long neck banjo into the rock arena with a full symphony orchestra, recorded live in the studio in one take) and the tunesmith-imbed America and follows those up with the acoustic guitar statement about the world of our choosing within the qualm-based The World We Made, the three chord folk song, one about peace (and recorded with a full 61-piece symphony, a rock band of Grammy winners and four children’s choirs singing in English, Spanish, French and Russian) The Dream, and then comes the harmonica-driven, Dylan-esque beauty Assassins In The Kingdom.
Up next is the languishing guitar rock dreamscape about love and youth lost and years of wasted time within Dreams of Fire and the delicately strummed, mandolin driven “prayer” to someone you are not sure is there, not sure is listening, Benediction and they are in turn seamlessly backed by the melodic rhythms of Young & Alone (which relates the angst, drama and loneliness of being very young, very unsure, and very lost in this world), the bluegrass-rock drumming ambience of Cyber Bubba, the recording rounding out with the rambunctiously joyful Cars (which, I could swear, opens on the chords of the Stones’ Satisfaction), coming to a close on a gently fervent re-invention of the classic Appalachian folk song Shady Grove.
If anyone has supported and embodied the idea and image of America’s Troubadour, it’s Michael Johnathon.
Indeed, if Folk is the “Mother of all music” than Afterburn certainly reflects all the colors of that musical rainbow, and his career has reflected all of those musical textures. From the screaming long-neck banjo driven Techno-Folk to the majestic symphony of The Dream, the commentary of Cyber Bubba to the lament of Cars, every song is a story, every song is a musical cinemascape, a painting on a canvas of guitars, banjo and mandolins colored with rock bands and ... yes ... symphony orchestras!
“I love classical music, I love Pink Floyd, Pete Seeger and Dan Fogelberg,” Michael explains. “Woody Guthrie would have
one of the first ones to plug in a keyboard and try it out if they had them back then. What made Bill Monroe a pioneer and Father of Bluegrass was his willingness to try new things. To Change. He was the Nine Inch Nails of his day.”
Some may really like this. The purists will no doubt try to make fun of it ... it may not be their “cup of tea.” But then, Michael Johnathon is not exactly inviting you for a pleasant cup of tea, either.
Afterburn launches banjos, mandolins and guitars to heart pounding, unexpected levels and remain in the comfortable tapestry of the folk world by a banjo playing troubadour ... out to surprise, shock, even bewilder you.
From symphony halls to coffeehouses, the hollers of Appalachia to inner city clubs, Michael Johnathon proudly refers to himself ... privately, publicly and globally ... as a “folksinger.”
AfterBurn is his 19th album. He’s the author of six published books (WoodSongs 5 released in 2022), the screenwriter for the upcoming Caney Creek motion picture, organizer of the national association of front porch musicians called SongFarmers, the symphony album Songs of Rural America and the creator and host of the live audience broadcast of the WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour with an audience of over two million listeners each week on 500 public radio stations, public TV coast-to-coast, the RFD-TV
Network nationwide, American Forces Radio Network in 177 nations and schools across north America.
Michael Johnathon @ Facebook