All good songwriters draw from their personal experiences, often using their songs as a way of challenging the myriad demons which those experiences often can lead them to confront. One week in December 2011 not only provided Harry George Johns with enough demons to take several lifetimes to challenge, but with enough lyrical inspiration to fill dozens of albums, never mind just this initial mini-album (as he chooses to call it).
During the time period in question, Johns lost his house, his job, his girlfriend – and, as he candidly explains himself, “pretty much my mind”: the circumstances brought about by alcohol and drug addiction, the result saw him sitting in a bar in his hometown of Leeds, “with a bag of clothes and my skateboard trying to figure out not what went wrong, but simply where I was going to sleep that night”. Slowly, with the help of friends, doctors and therapists, he started to rebuild his life – and now, just over a year later, Johns has released a batch of songs written during that time, and thus serving as its soundtrack.
Unsurprisingly, ‘Post-Breakdown Blues’ is a collection of deeply personal songs, mostly delivered via Johns’ voice and acoustic guitar, which is both introverted – such as the laconic, bittersweet opener ‘Drink Myself To Sleep’, which uses cello to add to its morose density – and uplifting, such as the catchy ‘Sleep Is The Cousin Of Death’, or both at the same time, such as the bluegrass-infused foot-stomp of ‘Tie Your Own Noose’.
What is surprising is that, despite their introspection, their darkness, the songs manage to avoid coming across as self-pitying: instead of feeling sorry for himself and the situation in which he found himself, Johns uses his songwriting skills to look to the future – “OK, I’m here, and this is how I got here… now where do I go, and how do I get there?” It’s an approach that is refreshing and honest, and makes for an all the more rewarding listen as a result.
‘Post-Breakdown Blues’ will be available as a ‘pay-what-you-want’ download from Harry’s Bandcamp page from February 11th. Go here for more info.
Harry George Johns also plays the following live dates:
March 7 – Wakefield, The Hop
March 9 – Norwich, Olives
March 14 – Leeds, Sela Bar
March 23 – Coventry, Inspire
April 06 – Carlisle, The Royal Scot
April 20 – Edinbrough, Hendersons @ St Johns