SYLVESTER — Anthony Johnson calls his music “Christian, Americana, inspirational-type stuff.” An apt enough description.
But the music on the Sylvester singer/songwriter’s fourth album, “Barefoot @ Heart,” stretches beyond the inherent confines of those various genres and ventures into the Jimmy Buffett/Kenny Chesney/Jack Johnson/Jason Mraz style of feel-good music that refuses to fit neatly into anyone’s idea of compartmentalization.
The fact that the 11 songs on “Barefoot” also happen to offer insight into one man’s soul is a matter of happenstance, a product of that man’s refusal to compromise his musical principles.
Johnson, the worship leader for Byne Memorial Baptist Church’s “11:11” contemporary music service, is well-known at churches, coffeehouses and youth camps across the region, but he’s never approached “household name” status in a region that is increasingly producing such singers and songwriters. “Barefoot @ Heart” may not move Johnson into Dallas Davidson/Ray Stephenson territory, but it will open a lot of eyes and move him in that direction.
Most casual music fans marvel at the noises created by guitar virtuosos of the Eddie Van Halen camp who can make electric guitars do magical things. But there’s a subtlety — a quiet dignity — in the music of a finely-played acoustic guitar that is becoming a lost art. Johnson nails it in the James Taylor-like “Good Things,” which opens “Barefoot.”
By the time the listener gets to the album closer and title track — which is the best song on the album and impossible not to like — he’s sat through a musical version of “This Is Your Life,” with Johnson as the contestant. And it’s a worthwhile journey.
With songs like “Funeral of Me” — in which the singer offers his own eulogy — “B-Side,” “You and I,” “Streets of Gold” and the “two guitars and a never-ending road” of “Two Guitars,” “Barefoot @ Heart” offers a unique brand of chill — and sometimes chilling, as in the starkly haunting piano of the instrumental “A Life Less Glorified” — music that deserves to be listened to more than it needs to be classified for easier consumption.
— Carlton Fletcher