Chaotically Great Acoustic Folk
For those who have picked up previous albums from acoustic singer/songwriter Johanna Warren, you’ll be in for a bit of a pleasant surprise. After several releases featuring Warren’s calm voice and haunting guitar riffs, she has decided to move towards a more plugged band sound for ‘Chaotic Good’. What makes things more exciting is that she has taken all of her usual haunted witchy trappings with her. As a result, the album feels more like a bigger budget, rounded rockier album of Warren’s work that will carry all her fans with her rather than leave them behind. That is quite a difficult thing to balance but here its worked in perfectly.
The reason why I’m always drawn back to Johanna Warren’s music is her hypnotic melodies. She creates waltzing chord structures that to and fro from the same few chords and then she layers her vocals over the top. In many ways, nothing has changed but now we have electric guitars, drums and bass guitar added to the mix of acoustic guitar and piano.
On songs like ‘Rose Potion’ and ‘Bed of Nails’, the music is a slow burn through to its band effort. Warren isn’t afraid to let a song grow and mature over time. For more immediate folk anthems we have ‘Part of It’ and a country ballad with ‘Thru Yr Teeth’, the latter of which Parton and Donelly would be proud of. Newer to the mix is when Johanna gets rowdy and angry. On tracks like ‘Twisted’ and ‘Faking Amnesia’, we hear her impassioned and shouting at full volume. For a lady of seductive dark folk, these tracks genuinely surprised me but they fit so well into the feel and mix of the album, they add many colours of the sonic palette of the work.
For all the chunky part efforts here, Warren still loves a quiet but defiant acoustic witch folk song. Both ‘Every Death’ and ‘Bones of Abandoned Fruits’ contain all the gold nuggets of brooding that made her previous work so enticing and moreish. Slap bang in the middle of all these cross overs sits the amazing ‘Only The Truth’. It is quintessential Johanna Warren. A sad and reflective melody with vocals that twist around it – now with soft drums and sympathetic instruments breaking your heart one bar at a time. It feels both familiar and fresh at the same time as a long time listener and to do that is a rare balance.
Anyone who needs to explore a new female singer/songwriter in 2020 should pick this up. It is an album that will grow with you upon each listen. You often think initially about how easy each song flows with you and then five listens later you are busy mining your inner feelings over the lingering vocals. A superb album that deserves a lot of praise and attention.
Recommended track: Only the Truth
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