Johnny Coley ::: Antique Sadness
Johnny’s Weird Band, portrayed by Craig Legg
"This year seems like an impossible one to decide on a hard favorite, but this album contains some of the
most profoundly moving and singular recordings I could ever imagine.....exquisitely haunting, sublime,
hilarious, stunningly beautiful reflections, one after another. Albums like this make me think that maybe
perfection is attainable after all, if you approach it gently but confidently enough."
-Jen Powers, Aural Thicket, WCRS 92.7FM, Columbus, OH
"...tracks like “House I was Born” have an interesting contrast between the more dreamy, reflective tone
of the backing music and Coley’s amusing turn of phrase, all of which is elevated by his unique cadence that
falls somewhere between Robert Ashley, David Wojnarowicz, and Intersystems. Pretty wild that it’s taken
so many years for Coley to have recorded an album like this, as Antique Sadness displays a type of southern
avant psychedelia that I could see a number of ‘heads’ getting behind"
-Free Form Freakout, KMSU 89.7FM, Mankato, MN
I thought I saw a space just beyond...The night air hanging around East Lake was thick and humid in mid July. We gathered at Lizzie's little house,
which was like a tiny hidden oasis just behind a bleak burnt out section of Rugby Avenue. I would go pick Johnny
up, and on the drive over he would tell me things about a novel he'd written on his phone. We'd hang out while
people showed up and then have to turn off the droning AC window units to record. It would get very warm
in there....my hands would sweat while plucking the pyraharp. Our configuration was loose and fun....
everyone clustered together in the living room, hanging suspensefully on Johnny's words as a guide through
our sonic meanderings.
I first saw Johnny perform spoken word with Davey Williams on guitar and LaDonna Smith on viola in April 2016
at Shift, a temporary art space in downtown Birmingham. I was immediately captivated by this unfolding of music
and stream-of-consciousness storytelling. Johnny talked about walking barefoot to the pool hall in Gee's Bend, Alabama.
“My friend told me....‘you shouldn't go around without any shoes on....people will think you're gay.’ I didn't realize
being barefoot had anything to do with being gay,” Johnny said. Little moments like this stuck with me. Not only were
they really interesting personal anecdotes, but Johnny had an ability to describe very specific situations that pinpointed
something deeply familiar about our culture. I'd always loved seeing Davey and LaDonna play, but hearing them with
Johnny was amazing to me in a very different way. Apparently they had been doing this trio thing since the 70s?
And the name of their group was "They"? Too good to be true! I knew I just had to document this group somehow....
it was one of the best things I'd ever seen. Life kept happening and it was another two years before I saw Johnny give
a reading again, at East Village Arts in May 2018. I called him afterward and asked if I could set up a session with he,
LaDonna and Davey. He was thrilled that I just called him up randomly like that. We set up a date for July, but then
Davey got seriously sick with a relapse of cancer. We waited to see if he would feel better enough to play....but things
were too unpredictable. So, in lieu of playing with Davey, I asked a few other friends to record with Johnny. We ended
up doing three sessions, each with a distinctly different combo of people and sounds. The first was with Johnny on the
mic, Jess Marie Walker on flusdrawxing (amplified chalkboard), Brad Davis on electronics, Brent Stauffer on upright
bass and myself on banjo and autoharp. This combination of sounds created a mysterious atmosphere that felt electric.
It was exhilarating to have this unpredictable narrative element thrown into improvising....the words responding to the
music, and the music responding to the words in an organic symbiosis. (excerpt from the LP liner notes)