Ralph Boyd Johnson Dying To Go

The one word that comes to mind when listening to Ralph Boyd Johnson's Dying To Go is honest, plain and simple. He seems to come to this music through the dirt under his nails. Anyone who has traveled the Trans Canada highway will hear the wide expanse of nothing dotted with small towns laced together with tractor-trailers. Every legion hall, every old cemetery and every diner is in this record. This is country, Canuck-style. The echoes of Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle resonate, but only in that they have same similar roots. You can stray from these roots, but you should never forget where you came from. Johnson has obeyed this rule both in spirit and in kind; the liner notes are full of photos of friends and family. And the Albertan knows how to write, tell a story and make you care - from the simply pretty "Mystery" to the eulogistic "Common Clay." Further proof is the two stories he tells at the end of the album, "Ol' Black Crow" and "Ode to Steve," which are both riveting. My particular favourite special touches on Dying To Go have nothing to do with music or writing. Robert Boyd Johnson thanks "Canadian veterans for a debt that can never be repaid," then offers up a minute of silence near the end of the CD in honour of passed friends: genuine honest integrity. (Independent)