The Johnstons - Give A Damn (The Transatlantic Years)

The Johnstons first performed in the early 1960s as a family folk singing group comprised of sisters Adrienne and Lucy and brother Michael from Slane, County Meath Ireland. They recorded several singles scoring an Irish number one with their first single, a version of Ewan MacColl's "The Travelling People". In 1966 Michael Johnston left the group, replaced by two new members, Michael Maloney and Paul Brady. Their popularity increased in Ireland and in 1968 they signed with the UK's premier folk label Transatlantic, on which they released six albums over five years from which this collection is compiled.

The Johnstons vocal style was influenced by the American West Coast groups like The Mamas And The Papas, The Association and Harpers Bizarre, whilst the bulk of their songs were versions of songs by the then new breed of North American singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen. The orchestral backing make some tracks reminiscent of the work Arthur Lee's Love were doing on albums like "Forever Changes".

The group became so successful three of them relocated to London, Lucy deciding to stay in Dublin, leaving sister Adrienne as the sole original Johnston. The second album "Bitter Green" mixed traditional Irish songs with contemporary songs like Ewan McColl's "Jesus Was A Carpenter" that told of story of Christ within a socialist context. Mick Maloney left in 1971 leaving The Johnstons as a duo comprised of Adrienne Johnston and Paul Brady to record the final album "If I Sang My Song" in 1972. The album was made up of all original material written by Paul, Adrienne and her husband, American songwriter Chris McCloud who had taken on the role as producer. Paul Brady was now emerging as a major songwriters whose material from his subsequent solo career has provided songs for Tina Turner, Bonnie Raitt and Santana.

After making a solo album in 1975, Adrienne returned to Ireland for TV work with her sister Lucy, but sadly died in 1981. This collection gives you the opportunity to acquaint yourself with an overlooked group.

Derek McCann

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