Music critic deserves acclaim for work with ArcadiaWhen I met Scott Johnson for the first time, I was just a few steps off the boat from a beautiful life behind me in Maui.
When I met Scott Johnson for the first time, I was just a few steps off the boat from a beautiful life behind me in Maui.
With nothing certain but that I was right there right then, I walked with my sing-all-around me, as always, I was, searching for other people with a musical soul when the streets of my old childhood hometown of Superior walked me into his shop on the north end of Tower Avenue. A transient gypsy-footed lady, such a grounded musical home was something new to me — the warm and humble roots were the heart of the place, and the roots were the thing.
Those northern Wisconsin raised eyebrows said I threw everybody off a bit when I started playing a song on a guitar for them all; I believed that is what you do with music — I still do. But with a smile and a good hand, Scott and I started our walk and song together that day.
Our friendship, a mentorship, came through a guitar lesson. A half-hour moment that taught me more about music than years of wandering. Scott, his life understanding our psyches in the background, knows a way to lift people out musically that is something like a birth of belief. He knows what becomes between a person and her music, and he knows how to open that to the world. With his guiding hand, I became music in a new way.
So, I was very excited to listen to his new album with his group Arcadia. I know from our friendship he is a man who puts his all into what he loves, and he loves his family and he loves his music and he loves his community. And this is a family band, so I knew this would be an album built of great love.
The group has been playing together in various make-ups since 2006 and currently includes Scott Johnson Sr. on lead vocals and guitar — he is also the owner of Northwoods Music, the Northwoods Music Festival and radio show host of “Home Town Sounds” on WWJC 850 AM — Brenda Johnson, vocals; Scott Johnson Jr., guitar; Logan Amys, bass, Haley Lawson, saxophone; Joe Cusseo, piano; Tony Garland, percussion; and Marvin Pomeroy, percussion on the album. All those Johnsons make it a family band.
Scott Sr., Scott Jr., Haley Lawson, Logan Amys and Marvin Pomeroy all work at and teach private lessons at Northwoods Music in Superior.
The Red Mug is their local venue home, but Arcadia, meaning “paradise,” plays all around town and their paradise is the Northwoods Music Festival where they get to play their favorite type of show — outside. Outside where there is space for their unique sound and full blend of instruments to not only dance amongst the listeners but also across the water and through the open air.
On the album “Lay’n Next to the Sun,” within the first few bars of the first song the almost choreographed beat is bound to pull you to dance around like you were on your own stage. The influence is a bit fluid, and as I was listening, I felt like I didn’t want to place the style into this or that genre, it was the beat and inflection that pulled on me regardless of any of that. What I do know is that I woke up in the morning singing a song’s hook from this album. And that when I put it on the car stereo with my friends we all ended up moving and smiling and singing along. It doesn’t matter the genre’s name — the genre is good.
The group is better on the slower ballads. The heart of the music is in singing of love’s longing and long-written story. So when Scott slows down to share with the audience the pace his heart sings to his wife and family, it has a pull on the listener to open up to his way of finding peace and happiness.
What I found in this album is what I found in Scott when I met him and through the years of our friendship – I want this CD with me in my car and with my family and among my friends. It makes me happy and I’m grateful for the thought and skill that is in the world through him and this group. He’s lucky, I’m lucky, we’re all lucky to have Scott playing music in this town.
The CDs are available for sale at Northwoods Music and at Arcadia shows.
Thoughts of Kristy Marie, written by Ian Kimmer