Photo by Martin do Nascimento/KUTX
Will Johnson’s quarter-century as a musician has seen a steady deluge of releases, ranging from his (now-defunct) Denton band Centro-matic to team-ups with Son Volt’s Jay Farrar and Monsters Of Folk. The through-line, of course, has been Johnson’s own steadiness. His songs can be loud and chaotic or darkly spare, but they all radiate a kind of artistic positivity thanks to his sheer doggedness. Another day is another song, and another song is another day.
Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm–Johnson’s forthcoming solo album–might be the Austinite’s best collection of songs to date, but given his huge body of work, that seems almost irrelevant. The focus here is quiet, everyday triumph. Johnson made the record a few years removed from the death of his mother and the end of Centro-matic. His usual studio, the Echo Lab, suffered a fire just days before recording. But the pivot to Austin’s Ramble Creek Recording resulted in a different album, a messier, more beautiful snapshot.
That beauty was on full display in our Studio 1A recently as Johnson brought in his band, which included Greg Vanderpool, Britton Beisenherz, and Rob Sanchez from Monahans and Ricky Ray Jackson, who’s played pedal steel with Hayes Carll, Phosphorescent, and more. “Predator” shows off Johnson’s Willie Nelson-like phrasing, dancing all around the country two-step. Johnson has a way of ringing emotion out of every word, but what’s remarkable is how plainspoken and natural he makes it all sound.
Find the Studio 1A recording of “Predator” below. The song also appears on Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm, out March 31.
–Art Levy // host, Sunday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., producer, My KUTX