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July 12, 2024

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Libby Johnson
Annabella (Wrong)

By: Scott D. Lewis

The kids won?t believe it, but there are certain advantages in getting older. One of the biggest is having the wisdom and confidence to move through the world softly and calmly, but by no means meekly. Libby Johnson seems to have learned this. While the band she lead with her sister Carrie, 22 Brides, tended to jerk from folk to rock, as a solo artist, Johnson is much more sedate, yet more focused and sharp. Annabella is a seamless series of small stories, most of which are sad yet sweet, and many of them sound like old friends within a couple of listens. Opener ?Don?t Mean You Lost Your Love,? with its hazy, watery guitars and sedate piano arrives like a fog and is just as easy to get lost in. Johnson?s slightly lazy, worn and dreamy voice suits the sounds and there something about the way she roughly purrs the title line in couplets that affixes it to the brain. She wins again with the bluesy swagger of the album?s title track and follows it up with gentle and groovy piece of pop-rock that brings the greatness of Mary?s Danish to mind. Three tracks in and she?s left packs of competing albums in the dust. But wait, there?s more. Another doubled-up title line serves as anchor for ?Good to Go,? a curiously addictive bit of adult pop that finds the perfect balance point between hope and sorrow. Building steam with increasing vocal intensity and spot-on drumming from Steve Jordan, ?Undone? is sew up tight while the following track pulls the pace way back with Johnson?s expressive piano playing and a sound that gets fuzzily polished up like an Azure Ray track. ?Mi La Vie? gets bluesy but relaxed, the soulful ?Rain? borrows from Dylan while gently wrestling with the topics of war and love and Annabella closes with the upbeat but slightly generic ?Indelible Mark,? from the film ?Trust the Man.? Like most worthy things, Annabella is an album whose strength and beauty arrives in steady strides.

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