Album Review: ‘Bound for Abiquiu’ from Dan Johnson and the Expert Sidemen

Albany native and current Vermont resident Dan Johnson, along with his Expert Sidemen, has released his second album, Bound for Abiquiu’, on the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign. With the album release party occurring this Thursday at Valentine’s, along with Driftwood and The Grassroots Rebels, featuring members of Jerkwater Ruckus, Albany is in for a treat, as Dan showcases a classic country/bluegrass sound through superb songwriting and catchy melodies throughout Bound for Abiquiu.

Opening with “Adam and the Snake Oil Salesman”, Dan’s country-twinged voice showcases his story telling skills while being complemented nicely by the Sidemen, adding in guitar, banjo and steel pedal guitars. Words of wisdom pour from the chorus, “There’s a road that has no beginning, there’s a great big old place in the sky, there’s an up, there’ a down, there’s a middle ground and you don’t ever have to die.”

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Named for a song and album of the same name by Albany band Knotworking, “The Garden Below” asks questions that lead to a confession, foreshadowing “Utica Blues” later in the album. “My Three Friends” is a truly traditional country tune, in the vein of Johnny Cash and Steve Earle, the way country music should sound, with lyrics on life’s laments and struggles, the sadness of these followed by the hope for better things around the corner. “Come on in my Kitchen” is not the classic blues number of the same name, but instead a pedal-steel accented plea to a lady to come over for dinner; a short, make you smile tune.

“Another Good Thing is Come and Gone” is a highlight of the album, played and sung in the Del McCoury-style, making it a most traditional bluegrass track. “Dancing Fool”, while not the Frank Zappa song (although Dan’s take on that would be great to hear) is a mellow tune painting a picture of a nervous guy working up the courage to ask a lady to dance, lacking confidence, even calling himself a dancing fool, yet still wanting a dance nonetheless. With a little klesmer intro and accordion adding a nice touch, “Off on the Tide” tells the story of a sailor heading out to sea, sick of the town he’s been at for a spell.

With a nod to Upstate NY, “Utica Blues” is a gambling song set in Utica, singing the blues about the life of a gambler who comes and goes as he wins and loses.  “Riding into Utica on a dirty old train, when I leave Utica I’ll be riding high again.” For what it’s worth, Utica is the perfect location for this story. Finally, the title track Bound for Abiquiu” brings a high note to the end of the album, telling the tale of a journey about to be embarked upon. The destination of Abiquiu is a mystery, left to the listener to draw their own conclusion.” Bound for Abiquiu is a perfect album for a sunny summer day or a drive to the Adirondacks or Southern Tier, while picking in the campgrounds at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival or casual listening to a classic country sound.

Key Tracks – “Another Good Thing is Come and Gone”, “Come on in my Kitchen”, “Dancing Fool”, “Utica Blues”