Sunday, December 11, 2011

Good Times and Good Tunes at the Heavy Anchor—12/9/2011

Music lovers got a treat this Friday night as three up-and-coming singer/songwriters put their unique music on display at The Heavy Anchor on Gravois.  Two local musicians, Jon Tree and Andy Hyland, co-billed with traveling songstress Abbi Rajesakhar making for a variety of styles and moods throughout the night.

I got the opportunity to talk with each musician after the performance to get a little insight into their style and influences as well as what lies in their immediate futures.

Jon Tree
Jon Tree was the first to take the stage. Eccentric without losing accessibility, Jon’s tunes consist of contemplative lyrics over dynamic chord changes—at times rolling, at times punchy and staccato.  His style puts one in the mind of an early 90s grunge act’s acoustic set minus the teenage abandon.  He says he’s interested in creating music that could be described as “sophisticated grunge”, aspiring to the jazz maxim, “never play the same phrase twice.”

Jon will be playing drums with another up-and-coming singer/songwriter, Mark Brainnard but says he’s most concerned with perfecting his own music.  You can find more information on Jon, his music and his upcoming shows on his facebook page;
However, Jon is still recording so, to give him a listen, you’ll have to hear him live.

Andy Hyland
You could call the second act on Friday’s bill a bluesman and you would be entirely correct!  To be more descriptive, you might say that Andy Hyland is a growling, groaning, shuffling, sliding, flat picking, harmonica playing animal. 

Andy’s skill is homegrown.  He is self-taught and readily admits that he hasn’t had much music theory.  But for Andy, the blues isn’t something you learn to play; it’s something that springs up from the gut—something felt as much as played.  And in listening to his records or watching him live, whether he’s playing a cover or an original, whether the song has those mournful blues lyrics or is one of his instrumental masterpieces, the emotion is palpable, exactly as it ought to be.

Catch Andy at Lemmon’s on January 7th with No Man's Law, Insomniac Folklore, and Han Ma and the Camaros.  You can find more information on Andy, his blues, and his performance schedule on his facebook page.
And be sure to check out his original tunes on reverbnation.

Abbi Rajesakhar
You hear a lot of songs celebrating the rambling man, extolling that always-on-the-move lifestyle so near and dear to the heart of the musician.  With her dedicated habit of touring at least one week out of every month—supported only by the take at the door, cd sales, and the kindness of strangers—Abbi Rajesakhar certainly qualifies to be fitted with the moniker “rambling woman.”  Her stop at The Heavy Anchor as headliner this past Friday was fourth in her December tour, after Fort Wayne, IN, Kalimazoo, MI, and Beloit, WI.  She ended her tour Saturday with a gig in Chicago, IL.

Abbi has the kind of voice and sings the kinds of songs that make you ask, “How is it that this person isn’t all over the radio?”  Much of Abbi’s strength comes from the variety she presents as a singer and musician.  The vibe of her music spans the gap from energetic and upbeat to subdued and somber.  As a singer, she shifts effortlessly from powerful belts to soft croons.  Her subject matter reaches from the heights of love and optimism to the pits of heartbreak.  The one constant is her masterful lyricism.  Abbi writes about life as she experiences it and says that she finds the songs that apply most closely to her personal life are those that stick with fans the best.

Abbi is currently booking for the early part of 2012.  You can find more information on Abbi, buy her albums, and hear her tunes at her website.

The performance area of The Heavy Anchor-- a small theatre with adjustable seating and a stage elevated about three feet-- is suitable for showcases like this past Friday's as well as full band performances.  All three artists had praise for the venue.  Both Andy and Jon complimented the talents of the sound operator, saying he was very attentive to what the artist is hearing in the monitors.  You can view the The Heavy Anchor's event calendar at their website,

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Blog… MINE (an Inaugural Blogural)

I just read the terms of service (yes, I actually do that).  It seems that I can write what I like in this forum so long as I don’t incite violence, slander, impersonate or release the personal data of others, or commit some egregious crime.  Seeing as how I’m a pretty much upright citizen, I think I should be entirely in the clear for the whole lifespan of this blog.  I want to take a moment to apprise you of what you can expect here.

Let me start by introducing myself.  My name is Leonard Johnson.  I was born and raised in Henderson, Kentucky, educated at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, made acquainted with the challenges of adulthood as an English teacher in Houston, Texas, and am now embarking upon the greatest adventure of my life—trying to become a nationally renowned musician starting with the conquest of the small yet famed city of St. Louis, Missouri. 

I will submit blogs frequently.  If you miss me and want to hear from me more often, check me out on twitter (@lbjohnstl) and like my facebook page (  In each location, you can find short platitudes and intermittent ramblings.  But this is where you want to come for the nitty-gritty.  But, alas, I work for a living so Sunday is the day to really put out something substantial.  So, what do I consider substantial?  What kind of propaganda, exactly, will I be spouting off?

I’m so glad you asked!  The main strands of knowledge I plan to drop on you are as follows;

Heat- I get around in this city (not like that, I’m proudly monogamous) and I’m starting to get a feel for currents in entertainment and nightlife.  I do this to try and promote my own music and career, of course, but, as a residual effect, I’m able to really get an understanding of who’s doing what, what acts are picking up steam, who is trending at the moment, etc.  I plan to share my take on what’s hot in STL’s independent music scene (by the way, HOT was a perfectly legitimate descriptive term before Paris Hilton and her ilk made it feel icky and I intend to revive it)

Light- I’m still a teacher at heart and, at the risk of seeming like an obtuse pedant, some of my blogs will focus on music as a craft and on the philosophy of music more generally.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have conversations with extremely talented musicians about how they write music and their thoughts on the current direction of music.  As I have more of these conversations, I plan to share the insights we come to.  And as a self-styled student of philosophy, I will sometimes blog about my own thoughts on the beautiful and the sublime as we experience it in music, on what constitutes originality, and on what music means in our lives.  Lofty, I know.  What can I say?  I think highly of myself.

Sound- At least monthly, I’ll be highlighting one of my own songs.  This is an attempt to define my sound, which is truly always a work in progress.  I will be discussing the meaning of the lyrics as I experienced them in the writing process and as I experience them as a singer and a listener.  This will be an opportunity to share with you how I craft music and further explore the meaning behind my own creative products.

Whatever the hell I feel like discussing- From time to time, a blog won’t fit any of these categories.  I’ll just write whatever is on my mind at the moment.  I may give a movie or restaurant review.  I may post a transcript of an interview with a local artist.  I may just journal and write about a personal experience that I think may be beneficial to you.  This is my blog… MINE!  So, I reserve the right to share my thoughts, some of which might be irrelevant to you.  The beautiful thing is you can (and should) follow me without following every word in every blog.

That being said, there will be something for everyone here!  So check my website ( weekly to see if I’ve written something for you.  If not, I’m sure to get around to it.

Vive la Free Speech and thanks for stopping by,

LB Johnson