Craig Johnston - Dingwalls - Camden Lock
After a mass surge in bedsit songwriter popularity, the lucrative transatlantic Blunt/Powter/Johnson/Rice movement seems to be a somewhat flickering flame. Fine, the plaudits have not-at-all been in rare presence around the recent release from the latter of the aforementioned four, yet already overdue follow-ups from James, Daniel, Jack, Steven, Bill & Ben, Dick Bob and Harry - however eventually inevitable - do promote a somewhat flat anticipation in an acoustic scene coming round more and more to hip, cultured folk artists. These of course range across a spectrum including mild commercial success in Scott Mathews, to sheer anti-establishment psych-folk acts in the vein of Espers and Akron Family.
So with such a theory in mind, what might be in store for Putney-based newcomer Craig Johnston. His musical portrait definitely settles in the Damien Rice mould, as his band set-up at tonight’s Dingwalls set suggests: a prominent cello part playing regular counter-melodies off Craig’s delicate yet charming vocal is sometimes a little close to the recurrent themes heard on Rice’s 2003 breakthrough O, yet still forms a characteristic marriage in the set-up’s instrumentation, acting as a balmy focal point to a generally humble performance.
The six-strong set - which precedes a questionable delivery of transvestite-fuelled disco pop by a band whose name I can’t remember, no less, and hence providing Johnston with not necessarily an ideal selection of punters – has noticeable highlights. The Ryan Adams-esque ‘Why?’ particularly highlights the song-writing potential of a happily bashful young talent, whereas compelling renditions of his foundational MySpace showcase ‘Two Words’ justifies the prickling of media ears.
The early career moves seem to be gently rolling in the right direction. The more commerce-friendly acoustic songwriter trends do come in forceful waves, prompting a forecast where the congenial Craig Johnston has his sights set on the next one to emerge on the horizon.