By Ian Bremner
If you were to ask a songwriter based anywhere in the Pacific Northwest who their favorite songwriter is, there is a high likelihood they would say Dean Johnson. Johnson has been a familiar face in Seattle for years manning the bar at the beloved Al’s Tavern in the Wallingford neighborhood. Every once in awhile, he would be convinced to grab his guitar and sing his songs for the regulars. Slowly and steadily, a collection of devoted fans formed and spread throughout the city. Soon, touring artists like The Deslondes and Esther Rose who came through town to play venues like the Sunset or Tractor Tavern caught wind of Dean and asked him to open. His star burns bright amongst those who know his songs.
Without a proper recording to his name, his songs already live deep in the soul of Washington State folklore. Sharing bills with Hyways, Izaak Opatz, The Moondoggies, Chris Acker, Sons of Rainier (Johnson’s band), Kassi Valazza, Mr. Sam and those who give the Northwest scene its “scene” over the years, Johnson’s name is etched in the corners the rooms around the region. The question that always came up was “when would he release a record?” Thankfully, Portland folk label Mama Bird Recording Co. has answered the call. Dean Johnson’s long-awaited debut album, Nothing For Me Please is out now.
The record starts with the first of several stunners, Faraway Skies. Over the 28 minute run time, Johnson sings incredibly visual short stories, both personal and metaphorical depending on whose listening. Recorded in New Orleans back in 2018, Johnson connected with the folks at Mashed Potato Records (Sam Doores, Duff Thompson and Steph Green) and his Sons Of Rainer bandmates Sam Gelband (now based in New Orleans) and Charlie Meyer to bring his tunes to recorded life once and for all. The result is a glorious hazy morning of carefully crafted songs.
Dean Johnson’s songs seep into your brain. You may find yourself singing along alone in the kitchen, on a chilly mountain trail or the back of Al’s Tavern. With time, his name may come up as a common answer to “who is your favorite songwriter” far outside those in the Northwest.
Listen/Buy Dean Johnson’s “Nothing For Me Please” below