Music Connection Magazine
Vol. XXIV, No. 14 7/3/2000 to 7/16/2000

Club Reviews
Lisa Johnson at Rusty's Santa Monica

Lisa Johnson, guitar, vocals
Tommy Edwards, guitar
Albe Bonacci, drums
Derek Frank, bass

Material: Lisa Johnson's band plays energetic rock & roll with touches of folk and blues. The upbeat songs are powerful, but not noisy, while the slower songs are calm but not tedious. The music finds a perfect balance between simplicity and technique. It is driven by open guitar chords, but enhanced by diverse guitar riffs, drum beats and bass lines. The songs have the rawness and honesty of old-style blues. Crushing teen-pop manufactured garbage, this band represents music truly made from the heart.

Musicianship: Singing deep melodic lines and hitting powerful guitar chords, Johnson has all the qualities of a great band leader. Edwards takes her music to higher grounds by injecting many textures into his guitar playing. Mixing Stevie Ray Vaughan's blues licks and John Frusciante's funk, he performs a wide variety of riffs, solos and chords. Frank adds different bass lines instead of just repeating the guitars. Bonacci plays with the hardness of a rock drummer and the technique of a jazz drummer.

Performance: In Rusty's restaurant on the Santa Monica pier, the quartet made the audience stop eating to pay attention to the show. Even an old man sitting in front of the stage grabbed a snare drum and played along with the band. Johnson did not smile, jump or dance while performing. She interacted with the audience mainly through her melancholy facial expressions, which fitted the music incredibly well. "I have to talk, because I'm not really in tune," she told the audience, adding some humor to her show. As a backing trio, Frank, Bonacci and Edwards did not steal the spotlight. Their highly skilled musicianship was just what they needed to prove their potential onstage.

Summary: Johnson's singing and guitar playing could make her the next Sheryl Crow or Melissa Etheridge. In music quality and stage performance, her band deserves more than playing in clubs and restaurants. It is easy to imagine this quartet entertaining thousands of people.

--Daniel Oliveira

Reprinted by permission of Music Connection Magazine.

Paul Zollo - Managing Editor of PERFORMING SONGWRITER, author of SONGWRITERS ON SONGWRITING - 7/14/00

I had the great pleasure of seeing Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Lisa Johnson last week at the Coconut Teaszer in Hollywood. While this is a venue that normally plays host to raucous rock bands, on this night Lisa’s band transformed the club into an intimate listening room. I have heard Lisa play solo over the years, and have always been impressed by her powerful voice and good songs. But this gig was a revelation; she was tremendous. Backed by a great band (Tommy Edwards on guitar, Derek Frank on fretted and fretless bass, Albe Bonacci on drums), she started strong and kept getting stronger throughout the set.

Her songs are lyrical, jazzy, chromatic and dynamic, and each was so inviting that they made me want to go home and put on her CD immediately, especially "Tell The Truth," "Desire," and "The Glory and The Dream" all of which spoke volumes to this crowd composed of other songwriters, musicians and Hollywood dreamers. Her lyrics are deep and thoughtful, exploring some areas that many songwriters never get near, yet all are held together by music that is tremendously infectious and inspirational.

She’s always been a good performer, but now she is really great -- at once relaxed and completely focused onstage, leading the band with an easy confidence that only true pros project. Tommyy Edwards played some delightfully pyrotechnic solos, while also adding subtle coloration and textures to each song.

Lisa Johnson is the real thing; a gifted songwriter whose performance ability matches the high level of her writing. If you’re looking for a soulful singer-songwriter who is writing and performing meaningful, appealing songs, look no further. If Lisa Johnson performs in your vicinity -- be it solo or with a band -- don’t miss it.

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