Artist: Canyon City
Label: Canyon City
Release Date: 10.6.17
Step across the threshold of this lonely, old house of an album and the feeling of isolation is palpable. Heavy, trudging steps up stairs are the first sounds heard on Constellation, the intimate, gently rendered second album of modern indie-folk musings from Paul Johnson’s Canyon City project, and they set the mood perfectly.
Sparsely furnished and soaked in dark atmospherics, the starry-eyed Constellation is lit only by the golden glow of Johnson’s acoustic guitar embroidery and strum, as well as his warm, earnest singing. A fragile peace is forged between deeply personal struggles and hopeful pop beauty in literate lyrical expressions of romantic yearning and painful memories, with quiet percussion, rich piano and light electric keyboards filling empty spaces. The bruised emotions of the simple, bare-bones “Like I Did” are tender to the touch, while the light, cycling hooks and feathery allure of “Find You” ensnares visitors and the bittersweet “Midnight Flight” – Johnson’s vocals slightly distorted to sound distant and resigned, reminiscent of Shawn Mullins in his smash hit “Lullaby” – sparkles in fading twilight.
Painting with subtle sonic textures and creating soft, accessible material with universal appeal, the Nashville songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer tugs at the heartstrings here. If only Constellation was more diverse, its song patterns less repetitious. And hints of commercial motives are barely perceptible, but they’re there. Those disappointments dissipate, however, in the face of Johnson’s soul-baring honesty and easygoing melodies.