Dan Johnson’s “Hemingway” plays out much like the audio book that accompanies it. It’s a collection of stories that are character-centric, colorful, and rich. To me, it’s a generous pour of a bourbon. It’s not something you consume quickly. It’s something you slowly sip and appreciate. You let it do the work and allow it to unfold. It’s not a barn burning album or one that you’ll probably hear out at the rowdy dance halls, and it’s not supposed to be. It’s best taken in, in a quiet place or comfy listening spot to soak in the seriousness of the overall picture.
Johnson undoubtedly takes a step up with the songwriting and complexity from his older collection and with it, reshapes pretty much everything you’ve known about him previously. Not that his other stuff wasn’t good, this is just different and certainly on another level. Even more moving is the philanthropy behind the project. Johnson has established “Operation Hemingway”, a non-profit organization which aims to educate the public on mental health struggles and suicide among military veterans. A donation page is available on the website and 20% of the proceeds from the “Hemingway” project will go to further the campaign’s mission. You can find more about it here: www.operationhemingway.org
The project opens up with “The Favor” a swampy tale of love and darkness. The layered contrast in the story on top of the Jeff Plankerhorn’s Weissenborn slide guitar immediately lets you know that you’re going to be in for a ride.
The title track “Hemingway” inspired by the by the tragic suicide of Johnson’s father, who struggled to cope with civilian life after returning from war. The intricate biography dives deep into pressing outside forces and their counterparts of internal struggle. The track carries a moving subtle delivery with a powerful message. ….Damn…. and thank you for putting this to paper Dan, I know it couldn’t have been easy, but it obviously going to go a long way in shedding some light into what some of the brave men and women who chose to serve go through upon returning home.
“Bloom” is an intimate track of a parent watching their child find their way and turn in to an adult. The song paints a cyclical journey of a daughter at home in the care of her mother, leaving to “bloom” and ultimately returning to care for her mother. Yeah…another one that hits straight to the heart.
The latin flavored “Tom Waits for No One” is packed with some lively instrumentation and vivid imagery. A story of loneliness and longing with the nod of course to one of the kings of heartbreak melodies Tom Waits.
The EP finishes with a haunting depiction of regret and remorse and a decision of the most dire consequences. The track takes you through the spiritual battle of the light and dark and certainly brings a furthered awareness on the mission of the “Operation Hemingway”.
The EP/Audiobook drops this Friday, and we definitely encourage you to grab a copy, but in the meantime enjoy an early listen to one of our favorite tracks “The Favor” below!
Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I’am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.