From the moment Toronto roots rock band Johnson Crook played together, they knew they not only had harmony in their voices, but a deep personal connection that made the idea of forming a group a foregone conclusion.

What the quartet— Noel Johnson (rhythm guitars/vocals), brothers Nathan (lead guitar/mandolin/vocals) and Trevor Crook (drums/vocals) and Jared Craig (bass/vocals)—share is a love of pure, honest music stemming from their small-town backgrounds. Drawing inspiration from groups like the Eagles and the Avett Brothers, each member of Johnson Crook contributes equally, injecting their unique personalities into the overall sound built on four voices.

That special chemistry is heard on their self-titled debut EP released through Coalition Records, to be followed by a full-length album later in 2017. Both encapsulate a whirlwind initial two years of live gigs and recording sessions that began almost immediately after that first encounter.

Teaming with acclaimed producer Bill Bell, they began shaping a collection of songs laid down at his home studio and at Metalworks near Toronto. The first taste, the single “Minnedosa,” came out in the summer of 2016, coinciding with the band’s multiple festival appearances. Named after the Crook brothers’ Manitoba hometown, it deftly displays the group’s intention to stand apart from crowded field of contemporary country artists.

Other tracks on the EP came about just as naturally. “Canada Heartbreak” was the result of Johnson and Craig taking part in VIA Rail’s Artists On Board series, written as a reflection of their journey. Another highlight, the plaintive ballad “Mr. Nobody,” was given a boost in the studio through the participation of Bell’s close friend Tom Cochrane, whose voice fit in seamlessly.

Expect to see Johnson Crook in your town at some point in the wake of the EP and forthcoming album. Every stop brings with it a story that could become a new song, and as a group founded on the principles of equality, Johnson Crook’s creative potential is limitless.

Melissa Payne

BIO
ENNISMORE, ONTARIO’S MELISSA PAYNE HAS TRULY LEFT HER MARK ON THE MUSICAL LANDSCAPE, AND SHE’S JUST GETTING STARTED. HER BACKGROUND IN OLD TIME FIDDLE AND TRADITIONAL CELTIC MUSIC HAS EVOLVED INTO A BLOSSOMING SOLO CAREER, INCLUDING TWO FULL LENGTH ALBUMS AND ANOTHER COMING THIS APRIL. HER LIVE PERFORMANCES HAVE GARNERED HER CRITICAL ACCLAIM, AND NOTABLE GUEST COLLABORATORS LIKE BLUE RODEO’S GREG KELLOR, JAMES MCKENTY, MATT MAYS, NATALIE MACMASTER, CELLIST NATHANIEL SMITH AND JIMMY BOWSKILL OF THE SHEEPDOGS, HAVE HER WORKING WITH SOME OF THE BIGGEST NAMES IN CANADA, AND BEYOND. HER UPCOMING RECORD, DARKER THAN YOUR DARK EXPLORES AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT REALM FROM THE PAGES OF HER SONGBOOK. NINE ORIGINAL TRACKS THAT TAKE THE LISTENER THROUGH THE PEAKS AND VALLEYS OF THE LIFE OF THIS HIGHLY EMOTIVE ARTIST WHO IS JUST GAINING HER STRIDE. HER HONEST AND VULNERABLE APPROACH TO THE SONGS THAT COMPRISE HER LATEST EFFORT ARE SURE TO WIN OVER HER DEDICATED FANS AND FIRST TIME LISTENERS ALIKE.

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