River City Demo

Amateur Radio Operator

2005: amradio

  1. You Are an Astronaut
  2. Sea Site: Shivering Sands
  3. Los Commodores Inferioires
  4. River City
  5. Amateur Radio Operator
  6. Water Shed

Amateur Radio Operator was the solo-performance manifestation of Mark Johnson, who used to appear as part of Yeek Yak Airforce, but now it’s become a proper ensemble (albeit one with flexible personnel). Much as I wish I could say that Mark and I work together, it’s more accurate to say that we work for the same company and (regrettably rarely) have worked on projects together. Mark’s a brilliant, electrically hypercharged person with talents blasting out in every direction, and this demo CD is only a temporary corralling of the wildfire beast.

I’m still trying to put my finger on what exact musical memory Mark’s solo style awakens in me…he’s tapping some serious backwoods Mississippi-to-Kentucky ground in his vocals, although the songs themselves are freer-form than that milieu, but aside from picturing Robert Plant in a fondue of hillbilly backwaters I can’t quite identify the sound Mark evokes even though I know I know it in some distant memory (and perhaps it’s “distant memory” he’s channelling). Regardless of resemblances and derivations, however, it’s quite purely himself here, him as I don’t even know him despite seeing him daily for 6 years.

Having said all that, I have to add that the track “River City” is a gorgeous bit of Delta blues guitar work, complete with slide. (And I’m pretty sure that’s Mark’s dog Orion barking in the background at the end.) “Amateur Radio Operator,” the track that follows it, is a more alienating dreamscape by comparison. These two tracks back-to-back are an excellent display of the scope Mark’s presenting.

This is raw talent flowing pure from the source, alarmingly so, and I hesitate to try to constrain it by description; really all I can say is “get a copy of this for your ownself and see how you react.” For me, it’s an intensely unique gem, albeit a twangily rustic one.

Mark has a couple of web presences, neither quite fully established yet: