The traditional folk club is dying out. Fire In Your Heart is a new monthly folk night for Leicester, bringing together elements of the old and new to both celebrate and renovate the time-honoured tradition of gathering together to share stories through songs.
Robb Johnson is now widely recognised as one of the finest songwriters working in the UK today. His songs feature in the repertoires of a wide variety of musicians, from folk legend Roy Bailey to acclaimed cabaret diva Barb Jungr, & he enjoys a similarly diverse spectrum of critical acclaim – “a modern-day Dostoyevsky” said the US’s Dirty Linen, Mojo made the double CD Gentle Men Folk Album Of The Month, while The Daily Telegraph made it their Folk Album Of 1998, & Tony Benn says Johnson’s “Winter Turns To Spring” is his favourite song.
He has played pubs, clubs, pavements, pickets & benefits, arts centres & festivals, local radio, BBC Radio 3 & 4, Belgian Radio 1, Nicaraguan TV & Channel 4, the Albert Hole in Bristol &, as part of Roy Bailey’s 1998 concert, the Albert Hall in London. In February 2006 Robb appeared at the Barbican as part of the prestigious BBC “Folk Britannia” series, where “for the encore, Robb Johnson leads all the artists (and the audience) in the World War I song (‘Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire’)” (BBC Folk Britannia website) in a concert that was screened later that month on BBC4. Earlier this year Robb was the featured guest on Andy Kershaw’s Radio 3 programme. Robb also plays extensively in Belgium, Holland & Germany, & he has toured Britain supporting Chumbawamba, & the US with David Rovics.
Robb has worked with a variety of bands, with friend & fellow songwriter Leon Rosselson, as well as solo. In 1997 Robb wrote the song suite Gentle Men, an ambitious family history of the first world war for the Passendael Peace Concert, where the musicians were a jazz combo led by Belgian jazz legend Koen De Cauter, & he subsequently toured it successfully in Britain too. Robb’s album Metro (released in September 2005) featured piano accompaniment by the late Russel Churney, who had previously worked with Julian Clary, Barb Jungr & Fascinating Aida). Again, the album received widespread praise in both music & national press: “unquestionably classy… excellent songs (that) show again what a fine, if provocative writer Johnson is” (The Daily Telegraph).
His label Irregular Records has also facilitated releases by a variety of song-orientated artists, including an album celebrating the work of Jacques Brel that has done much to focus a renewed interest in the chanson genre. He has translated several of Brel’s songs & performed concerts celebrating Brel’s life & work. Robb has also co-written Woman, a biography of Yoko Ono, published by Chrome Dreams.