On his debut LP, Alabama poet & performer Johnny Coley delves into the saltwater poolof his mind to extract lucid observations that drip like surreal front porch gossip. With a drawling voice
equally poignant and comic, Johnny's experimental storytelling unfolds like an old familiar blanket...
musty and stained with various bodily fluids...a map of time, pleasure and disintegration. The music
surrounding his verbal riffing is made by an array of off-beat combos: two banjos and a transistor radio
screeching and braying in a field, amplified chalkboard paired with upright bass and mysterious German
electronics, a brushed snare gently sizzling with harp and pyraharp. Johnny Coley & crew keep things
loose, unpredictable and juicy.
Percussionist Jimmy Griffin reflects on improvising with Johnny:
Jimmy: I had a mustang that hadn’t broken yet. Johnny lived at Highland Towers, you know the one, the middle
tower between the two parks. And there was a cool, black gentleman named Horace, who could do the moonwalk.
He lived in the projects in West End, close to where I lived. So every morning, I would get in the mustang, drive to
the projects parking lot to pick up Horace, go to Highland Towers, pick up Johnny, and it was a Mountain Brook
lawn service, drive to Mtn. Brook, and do this lawn service gig. Oh and then Johnny was the driver for the lawn
service truck we were using. And they would send us on jobs in Mtn. Brook, and we would get lost half the time
(laughs), and we’d have to come back and say, “We couldn’t find the house!”
Jasper Lee: It’s like a labyrinth over there.
JG: So, one of the things was, um… I think the lawnmowers had a brand name like “Lawnboys”. So Johnny and I
would joke about, “Well, we gotta load the lawn boys onto the truck”, like they were living things. It was a wild job.
But I remember everyday, you know, it was kinda like a gig. And so.....to tell you the truth, it just seems like I always
knew Johnny. So I can’t tell you when I met Johnny, but we had mutual friends, mutual activities, and just faded in and out.
I can say about Johnny, because thinking about calling the lawnmowers the “lawn boys”, and they were like, you know,
what is it, Lord of the Rings, you know? Inanimate objects can be living objects. So I wanna say that Johnny had this
sense of improvisation always. Even while cutting grass. (laughs)
JL: Even while cutting grass.
JG: Even while cutting grass, so that’s sort of, that’s where we could have endless conversations, and when they were
over, you don’t even know what you talked about, you know......So, Johnny’s a master improviser.....though we weren’t
very good at mowing grass. (Laughs). I think Johnny’s such a good improviser cuz, like myself, we both had jobs we
weren’t really that good at. (Laughs). So if you give him something he’s really good at, like art and poetry and improvisation,
and listening and responding to musicians, well there you go. Johnny has some magic in his voice that catches everybody’s
attention, I think if Johnny’s reading or especially improving the music, people are kinda leaning forward because that voice,
that cadence, unusual juxtaposition, things you know all about and things you don’t know anything about. It just pulls
everybody in. And he knows when to stop. Some of us don’t (laughs).
Tape / Digital
on Astral Editions
Their breaths move through you like fragrance...
Landscape Man is the second album I've collaborated with Johnny Coley and friends on. It was an extreme
pleasure to play on this and mix it together with Turner, who had the vision to combine recordings from
two performances into a profound journey greater than the sum of its parts. I don't know if you'll ever hear another
record with this magikal crew all in one place!: Jimmy Griffin, LaDonna Smith, Rodger Stella, Milton Ragsdale,
Amber Ragsdale, Rodney Hasty, Kyle Eyre Clyd, Turner Williams Jr., Mona Assayag, myself, Hunter Bell, Juball Dalzell.
It was a freezing rainy day....December 22, 2019. Ain't nobody coming to the Firehouse tonight unless you're
playing in the band. Forget it...they should shut down the city when it rains like this. We all crammed onto the
stage anyway, ten lit souls making the most minimal sounds possible underneath Johnny's voice. Cliché as it
sounds, we were really listening. Fuck, probably too tired to do much else. "All I can play is two notes, man..."
And Jimmy got his car keys out, jangling 'em in front of the mic. Last month, he was sweeping a dollar bill
around the stage with one of his snare brushes. You're goddamn right he was, that's the kind of town this is.
"I'm nineteen and I'm in love with love." Maybe the last time I'd be truly carefree (it only seems so in retrospect)
....what hellfreakride would come next. Anyway, Johnny still lives up in the Highland Tower. Just a neighborhood
poet, doing his thing. Wait, I probably shouldn't tell people where he lives....tomorrow there'll be hundreds of
teenagers trying to sneak into his apartment to ask for an autograph or take pictures of him asleep. That's what
it's like being a living legend. People bring you things.....coffee, drugs, clothes, paper to write on....
...there is no other like Johnny Coley.