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Woodsongs host, folksinger Michael Johnathon, releases ‘Dazed & Confuzed,’ to perform in Ohio


Michael Johnathon is heading north, to celebrate the release of his new album “Dazed & Confuzed” (PoetMan Records).

The Kentucky-based folksinger, who lives in a log cabin outside of Lexington, will headline an evening of music at Leo Coffeehouse in Cincinnati on Sunday, April 14, as part of the Queen City Balladeers’ monthly concert series.

Johnathon is best known as host of the internationally syndicated public television and radio music series “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour,” which can be seen locally on Kentucky Educational Television (KET). However, the native of Upstate New York, who grew up next door to folk music legend Pete Seeger, is also a prolific singer, songwriter, playwright and author of several books. He is recently composed and produced the new folk-symphony “Songs of Rural America,” which will air on public television nationwide this fall.

On “Dazed & Confuzed,” Johnathon, a self-proclaimed “tree hugger,” touches on several political and social issues. As he describes it, the album is his effort to reintroduce the musical role of the folksinger in a modern age, setting the art form apart from what he calls the “I, Me, My” generation of songwriters.

The album’s hardest-hitting song, “The Statue,” was inspired by the 2017 demonstration by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. Although it uses the controversy surrounding Confederate statues as a jumping-off point, Johnathon says the song is not about the statues.

“It’s about the symbols of racial violence, injustice and the political divide remaining between people and races,” he said. “It’s a lyrical condemnation of prejudice and racism and the hurt it causes.”

An accompanying music video for “The Statue” was filmed discreetly in Charlottesville, Virginia; Union, West Virginia; and Paris, Kentucky.

“Many towns refused permission for us to film,” Johnathon said. “That’s how controversial this issue still is.”

Like “The Statue,” the other songs on “Dazed & Confuzed” clearly express Johnathon’s various points of view, but he does not expect listeners to always agree with him. In fact, he relishes debate, as long as it is respectful.

Michael Johnathon

“The title track is about the high-speed tsunami of useless, over-hyped insistence that we all think the same,” he said. “We can’t, and we should not.”

Some songs on “Dazed & Confuzed” are humorous, while others are serious. For example, Johnathon wrote the song “Smoke” in the hope of helping others stop what he calls “this dangerous and filthy habit.

“We are free to do what we want, but when someone you love is doing something unsafe, as smoking is, we should do everything possible to encourage them to quit,” he said.

“The Maple Tree” is a live concert recording on a mountain dulcimer about the unyielding political divide between communities.

Johnathon composed “Something’s Wrong” while listening to a group of millennials in a coffee shop expressing their concern about the ferocity of national and world events.

Not all songs on the album deal with controversial issues. “Melissa’s Song” is an old-fashioned, feel-good love song inspired by Johnathon’s wife. “Log Cabin Twins” is about his children, while “Hippy Luv” is an ode to the tree-huggers of the world.

For Johnathon, writing books and making music isn’t just about making money; it is about bringing people together. He founded the WoodSongs Front Porch Association, a grassroots organization that encourages musicians throughout the country to bring roots music education into schools free of charge and enhance their communities through small musical events. Members are called “SongFarmers.”

Ultimately, Johnathon’s “Dazed & Confuzed” album is a tribute to SongFarmers everywhere, who can turn seemingly mundane subjects into songs that inspire others and might help change the world for the better.

“Folksingers are five-string politicians, six-string therapists, banjo barristers, acoustic lovers, and penny-pinching peacemakers,” he said. “People who sing together cannot fight. The world needs more of them.”

Michael Johnathon will perform at the Leo Coffeehouse at Zion United Church of Christ, 2301 Indian Mound Avenue, Norwood, Ohio, on Sunday, April 14, at 7 p.m. Woodstock Revisited and Skirts & Boots will open the show.

For information, visit this website.

“Dazed & Confuzed” is available through iTunes, Amazon and other outlets, as well as this website.

Tracks

1. The Statue
2. Maple Tree
3. Log Cabin Twins
4. Melissa’s Song
5. Something’s Wrong
6. Hippy Luv
7. Growing Old
8. (I Hate Your) SMOKE
9. $5 Wife
10. Dazed & Confuzed

Musicians

Michael Johnathon – Martin 0000-28s, 000-28s, D28s, Vega longneck banjo,

Warren May — dulcimer, piano, Franzke mandolin, tambourine, harmonica, Vietnamese bells
JP Pennington – electric guitar, vocals

Rob Ickes – dobro

Bob Bryant – bass

John Johnson – drums, tambourine, shaker

Kristy Kirsh – flutes and recorders

Melissa Deaton, Vicky Myers, Alice White – vocals

Lee Carroll – piano, Hammond B3

Isaac May – Franzke mandolin

Ruth McLain – upright bass, vocal


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