Big Mellow Dion

Little Johnny England (LJE)
Little Johnny England

By David Lilly

"I want more melodeon music!" is what tens of thousands of people are exclaiming upon hearing the English band Little Johnny England. Not really, but how often do you get to hear a folk or rock band fronted by an instrument that sounds like a cross between a harmonica and an accordion, even though it isn't either of those? How often would you like to hear it? Buy a copy of this CD, Little Johnny England, and you can hear it whenever you want. At times, this disc evokes Jethro Tull, with Ian Anderson trading his flute for a melodeon.

If you're very easily startled, you might want to listen to the beginning of this disc with a friend, and then you'll have someone there to share the rest with. The first song, "Whisper of the Moon," begins with drums rapidly knocking on your door, starting in the basement and rushing up the stairs. After that it's a toe-tapper. "Le Boeuf Anglais" bounces out of the speakers in a mating ritual of rockabilly and Cajun music, with a Bo Diddley beat and slide guitar. "Maybe" marches from start to finish, seasoned with slide guitar. Just when you thought you'd never hear another one, there's the always-welcome melodeon solo at the start of "Joust/Rocky Road." Later in the song, a blistering guitar solo is sandwiched between more melodeon leads.

To get the full effect of "Jake's Jig/Goldrush Hayeswood," consume plenty of caffeine and give yourself lots of room to dance around. The first half of "Solway Dawn/Race to the Summit" is a dirge, while for the athletically inclined, the second half is probably great on headphones while speeding in your toboggan. Get the picture? This is adventure land.

If having a melodeon in front isn't strange enough, their first disc was "live;" a recording of their set at a festival called Cropredy 2000. This eponymous disc is their studio debut. LJE sounds so tight and harmonious, it's hard to believe they've been together only two years. However they're very experienced and highly regarded musicians in their homeland. Leader Gareth Turner produces melodeon styles from classical to rock to Cajun, and then some. Renowned English slide guitarist P.J. Wright is lead vocalist, and at times resembles Tull's Anderson in the way he emotes. Mat Davies and Edd Frost combine bass and drums, respectively, for the solid and flexible LJE rhythm section. Multi-instrumentalist Guy Fletcher - also the drummer for Tickled Pink - contributes backing vocals and fiddle.

LJE is scheduled to tour America in November - bringing buoyant music and spirit to the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, OH on November 9. It's not that long a drive.

To find more information, see photos, hear samples or buy CDs, visit www.littlejohnnyengland.co.uk