Half a Heart
Donald Wayne Johnson Donald Wayne Johnson came from Paradise, actually Paradise California and claims the legendary Merle Haggard from neighboring Lake Shasta as an early mentor. In fact, Johnson once upon a time used members of the Strangers, Merles' Band, as back up. His new album, the self produced Half A Heart on Dude Records is already receiving USA and international airplay and the first single, One More Day and another 'Back In The Mainstream' are in radio rotation down under in Australia, as well as throughout Europe and the United States. Johnson's major musical influence was Bill Jacoby, a Doctor of Musicology, who ironically was the leader of one of Donald's early groups. He considers Haggard as not only a major influence, but also a guru of sorts, and the rocking Americana roots feel of Western Swing influence is obvious throughout Half A Heart, much of it an ode to California legends like Joe and Rosie Maphis, Buck Owens and the legendary Stranger from Kern County. In fact, Jodie Maphis, son of the Ventura duo sat in, playing rhythm guitar on several of the Johnson sessions. An admitted rounder, Johnson has performed throughout the nation, and was even a lounge jazzist for a spell in Lake Tahoe, CA. and Nevada. He had paricipated much in Contemporary Christian music ministry in an original group named Cornerstone. At Lake Arrowhead, CA, he performed before 'every major actor in the world' as he put it. Two tracks, the robust 'Wild Woods Man' and an earlier version of 'One More Day' have been released in two internationally played compilations, Nashville Music Express, volumes 11 and 12. The first single from the self produced Half A Heart is receiving international airplay throughout Europe, Australia, and the United States, while a new version of 'One More Day' is also receiving an enthusiastic reaction down under on Melbourne radio. Donald Wayne Johnson points to the fact that he shares the same name as former Capricorn Recording star and Miami Vice co-stars Don Johnson, and like the other Johnson, his music has a bluesy roots feel of Americana, a format that emerged out of the Lake Shasta region as an alternative to Nashville. Half A Heart was recorded in Nashville, using some of the top A Team session players along Music Row. But, it definitely has the Bakersfield feel to it, with rocking drums, rhythm guitar and non-muted bass, and a vocal that moves from a whisper to a scream on several tracks including 'Wild Woods Man' and 'Back In The Mainstream'. This unorthodox approach makes Johnson's performance unique in comparison to much of the product released under the guise of the Music City umbrella, which in part explains the rationale for the enthusiastic reaction from many international radio jocks. Deep down, Johnson considers himself a rocker, as do many of the major composers in the genre of Americana, including The Flatlanders and Duane Jarvis, as well as Walter Egan, who's Brooklyn Cowboys are also receiving strong airplay on international radio playlists. Americana is the new genre of country, a marriage of traditionalism, folk and the rock of groups like The Moby Grape, Byrds, Flying Buritto Brothers and contemporary groups like Wilco and Whiskeytown. Donald Wayne Johnson's Half A Heart definitely fits comfortably into that niche like a hand in a glove.
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