1998 / Abstract Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
I seriously believe we have a star in the making here! Much younger than most of the artists of this genre (23), Dax Johnson has experienced more in his years than most people do their entire lives. When I read that he was a self-taught pianist, a former drug addict and alcoholic, and a diagnosed manic depressive, I expected the CD to be dark, brooding, and musically all over the place. Was I ever wrong! The pieces are all fully-realized piano solos, and Johnson is an excellent pianist as well! He began his musical career by trucking his piano around the streets of Spokane, Washington, playing his concerts to all who would listen. Johnson calls his music neoclassical, but his themes are very personal - songs for family and friends (past and present); musical descriptions of what manic depression feels like; a theme for a bizarre dream; and even a great blues piece. As one would expect, there are many moods expressed on the CD, but the overall effect is very stirring and uplifting. It is difficult to pick a favorite track on this album because they are all so good and so moving. “Introduction (Welcome)” opens the CD with a free-from “blurb” (Johnsohn’s word) that serves as a powerful prelude to what is to come - no music to sleep to here! Pieces such as “A Search for Significance” and “The Lonely and Faded Away” are a bit darker, but there is always a feeling of hope along with the searching. “For Rain”, “Beloved” and “A Father and Son” are sweet love songs. If I had to pick just one piece to take with me, I guess I’d choose the title track, “Merciful Dwelling” - strong, melancholy, but looking forward; the mood takes a swing upwards toward the end, and trails off in a lovely flurry of piano keys. An incredible album from an artist I’m sure we’ll be hearing from often as his career progresses!
Merciful Dwelling is currently available at Hastings Record Stores in the Midwest. It will soon be available at Borders Books and Music and at Barnes and Noble, as well as at Dax Johnson’s upcoming website. As all of this gets put into place, contact Dax Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 6, 1998