"Umbrella Man leaves no stone unturned. Scott Albert Johnson's debut mixes blues, rock, folk and jazz, unified by first-rate harmonica playing." (Maureen Palli, Relix)
Named BEST MUSICIAN, Jackson Free Press 2009 and 2010 "Best of Jackson" awards
Songwriter, singer, and harmonica player Scott Albert Johnson has lived a nomadic life. Born in St. Louis and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, it was his thirst for knowledge and inspiration that eventually had him living in more zipcodes in just a few years than most of us do in a lifetime. In cities on both coasts (and some in between), Johnson immersed himself in the local culture before realizing that he'd ultimately find the most success -- both musically and personally -- by returning home.
Johnson left that home at age 18 to attend college at Harvard, where he kicked field goals for the football team (he still ranks highly on the school's career kick-scoring list). He worked in politics briefly after graduation, then studied journalism at Columbia University. A few more years in various new media and nonprofit jobs followed, but music kept calling him home in more ways than one.
"My decision to move back to Mississippi -- and I have always considered it to be home, even though I lived away for many years -- was affected by family, musical, and other personal considerations," he says. "It was the best decision I've ever made. I wouldn't trade my experiences living all around the USA for anything, and I still really like all of those places I lived, but it feels right being here. Music seems just to live in the air down here."
It was while performing with artists he admired -- including Dorothy Moore, Bloodkin, Jerry Joseph and R.E.M.'s Mike Mills among many others -- that Johnson began work on his debut CD, Umbrella Man . The rootsy songwriter's newfound sense of home and stability reveals itself throughout the album, which was recorded in Jackson and New Orleans. Like many of Johnson's musical points of reference (including Mark Knopfler, Randy Newman, Bruce Hornsby and Van Morrison), his songs are lyrically tender and thought-provoking while his warm, rich voice and considerable harmonica skills are on display throughout.
"I've always felt most influenced by, or attuned to, artists who are kind of what I would call triple-threats, says Johnson. "They sing well, they play at least one instrument very well, and they write great songs. I take each of these three parts of the equation as seriously as any other part. I also feel most in tune with artists who kind of 'are their own genre,' borrowing from many different kinds of music. I hope my music reflects that."
Umbrella Man was self-produced over a period of three years with local and regional musicians providing the backdrop for Johnson's tuneful ruminations on life, love, and the true meaning of "home." In addition to nine original songs, the album also includes a faithful harmonica version of Wynton Marsalis' "In the Court of King Oliver", featuring a cast of stellar New Orleans musicians that includes legendary drummer Johnny Vidacovich.
It's been a long haul, but Johnson's career goals are simple.
"All I have ever wanted, from a musical standpoint, was to be able to make a living sharing my music with as many people as possible," he says. "That sounds like a reasonable enough expectation, but there are so many great musicians who struggle to get their songs heard. I'm very grateful for each person who tells me they like my music, or buys my album, or comes to a show, because it means I've made a connection with them, and it brings me one step closer to my goal."
"Scott Albert Johnson's unique sound is irresistible and virtuosic in its breadth. Umbrella Man is a work of rare beauty and innovation. Rich, bluesy, and played with a heartfelt passion for the musical craft, his songs come as a refreshing challenge to a scene stifled by genre." (Tuesday Magazine )
Scott Albert Johnson is a harmonica player, and what a polished and exquisite player/songwriter he is. Umbrella Man has proved to be an unexpected and very pleasing surprise."
(Merv Osborne, Blues Matters [UK])
"There is a warmth and a deep soul to this latest offering from harmonica virtuoso Scott Albert Johnson. Backed by the best musicians Jackson, Mississippi has to offer, and recorded in that city and in New Orleans, these tunes rollick and pulse their way into the listener's heart. Gifted with a clear, emotionally satisfying voice and a complete grasp on what makes an honest, thoughtful song work, Johnson invites us to dance the night away, get hot, get sweaty and get involved. There is a rare love and passion in these recordings, an uncompromising dedication and a joyfulness that sets this way above many similar attempts. This is the sound of someone who lives and breathes the music he creates and wants to share it with anyone that will listen." (The Next Big Thing)
"Scott Albert Johnson is a harmonica player of the highest class, and a fine and versatile singer and songwriter as well. He has been blessed with a beautiful, clear and unique voice, and his harp playing varies between steaming blues solos, Toots Thielemans-like jazzy stuff, and more subtle playing. His style intermingles pop, jazz and roots music and, of course, blues influences."
"Scott Albert Johnson is a virtuoso harmonica player. But he's also an accomplished singer and songwriter, as his debut CD Umbrella Man undeniably proves... Johnson's musical versatility is on prominent display on Umbrella Man, a disc that mixes blues, rock, folk and jazz into a varied and eclectic stew."
(Carey Miller, [Jackson, MS] Clarion-Ledger)
"On Umbrella Man , Scott Albert Johnson displays the confidence of a seasoned musician. With never a dull moment, the album takes the listener on a ride. It has taken Johnson three years to bring Umbrella Man to fruition. It has definitely been worth the wait." (Andi Agnew, Jackson Free Press)
"Umbrella Man is a frighteningly solid Southern rock jam. Scott Albert Johnson's harp and mojo are strong medicine." (Herman Snell, Jackson Free Press)