Chadwick Johnson: Stormy Love

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Chadwick Johnson

Stormy Love

November 10, 2019

Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

Every so often a singer stands out in a way that sets them apart from others. Such is the case with rising soul singer Chadwick Johnson.

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He is a cross-genre artist with some special gifts. How often does a rising singer come along whose vocals are in a league with Eva Cassidy or Steve Perry (Journey)?

He has been making waves out west with sold-out shows at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in LA, The Purple Room in Palm Springs, the Smith Center and clubs in Las Vegas, as well as in stops in Manhattan where he’s scored at Bonafide Jazz Club, Birdland, and various open mics.

He’s shared the stage with Katharine McPhee, Grace Kelly, and Olivia Newton-John, and he sang at the White House for Bill Clinton. His fan base is rabid and growing, and with good reason. With the September release of this self-produced, eclectic CD, Stormy Love, he has expanded that following and received more airplay. He’s on the move.

The album has classic jazz/blues overtones mixed with emotional nostalgia (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”). It features six exceptional originals including “Remember Love” (written with Kalani Queypo), a trenchant song about memory loss and Alzheimer’s that has received considerable attention on social media and the airwaves.

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His is a jazz-tinged, pop tenor with a hint of country that, when applied to a broad array of styles, is hard to top. Above all, he has rapidly built a reputation as a melodic soul singer with substance. He emotes in a way that makes you believe him. Such truth-telling abilities are what make him stand out in a crowded field. That’s where the comparisons to others who have made a mark come in. The clarity of his impassioned voice and refined phrasing are applied to a broad spectrum of styles as shown in fiery versions of his originals and classics on this personalized disc. Unfeigned readings on Roy Orbison classic “Crying” and others cannot be understated. While following the basic melodic line, he reinvents it in a way that bares the soul of someone who’s talking about loss.

Like a handful of today’s more commercial artists like Josh Groban and a few others who reach their audience through their honesty of heart, Johnson tells a story. This is most obvious on truthful ballads such as his haunting beauty, “Song from Another Time” (also written with Queypo) about looking back on a love that is no more. “Gone” (another collaboration with Queypo) is a riveting entry that opens real aching emotional wounds. A gut-wrenching cover of “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” (Al Kooper) recalls the original by Blood, Sweat and Tears. He sings it with fervor and rips into the lyric with a passion that is, at times, shattering. Here, with strong support from Josh Nelson’s gospel-style piano and David Olivas’s whining trumpet, it’s an instant classic.

It’s another outstanding cut on an album that deserves attention in an industry where there is a dearth of real singers who can touch the heart singing about the real stuff in life.

Johnson proves he is no slouch when it comes to the American Songbook either. He caresses “Blame It on My Youth” (Oscar Levant and Edward Heyman) with a vague calypso/jazz underpinning that makes it a standout. Using a similar piano lament with Dave Robaine’s strong bass lick added, Johnson brings a muted intensity to “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your life?” that adds a different twist than usual. A bucolic “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell), with only piano accompaniment, sums up Johnson’s emotion-filled journey on an album that offers depth and resonates with matters of the heart. This is his strength. There’s no magic formula to finding a good singer—if they’ve got the goods. In the case of Chadwick Johnson, you can find him on the top of the heap.

The impressive (and assorted) musicians used on this CD on various cuts are high-quality players. They include Josh Nelson (piano), Jason Corpuz (piano/organ), Elliot Schwartzman (piano), Dave Robaire (bass), Fernando Tort (bass), Dan Schnelle (drums), Jeremy Klewik (drums), Andrew Synoweic (guitar), Tasos Peltikis (guitar), Sarah Chaffee (cello), Adrianna Thurber (violin), and David Olivas (saxophone).

John Hoglund

For over 30 years, John Hoglund has been a respected entertainment writer covering cabaret, jazz, theater and recordings. His writings have appeared in numerous outlets including the Bistro Bits column for Back Stage. John moderated seminars and forums for the International Cabaret Conference At Yale. He produced many celebrity fundraisers in NYC including one of the first benefits after 9/11: “HeartSong:The Heroes' Concert” at The Bottom Line featuring 36 major stars. He co-produced “HeartSong2: The Heroes' Concert” for Katrina victims at Symphony Space and “Miracle On 35th Street” with a star-studded lineup. Other fund raising efforts include the first benefits for Broadway Cares and God's Love, We Deliver. John served on the Board of Directors of MAC for 12 years. He is well known for championing new and rising talents.