Reviews

 

Quick Quotes:

“Bravo! Bravissimo!! Universal material that will appeal to people from all over the world, at any age!”–Patrick Moraz, Yes/The Moody Blues

“’These Are the Days’ shows Colorway’s breadth, without stinting on depth […] a rock-solid collection of songs with catchy hooks, taut riffs and hard-won wisdom.” –Eric R Danton, Listen, Dammit (Paste/Pitchfork/Rolling Stone)

“‘These Are The Days’ will give you hope for humanity.” –Chris Goudreau, The Valley Advocate

“You gotta hear this band!”–Peter Holsapple, The dB’s/REM

“And shine they do . . . with songs that will appeal to timeless pop-rock fans.” –PowerOfPop, Singapore

“[…] a tight unit whose brand of amiable pop-rock is captured here in clean, crisp recordings. –Music Connection Magazine

“Great stuff!”
–Chris Collingwood, Fountains of Wayne/Look Park

“Colorway is awesome!” –Dave Eisenstadter, Editor, Valley Advocate

“Great player, great band!” –Davy Knowles, Back Door Slam

“Amazing and inspiring . . . ” –Richard Lloyd, Television/Matthew Sweet

“Alex is lighting up the world with his music.” –Natalia Muñoz, 1400 WHMP Radio

Colorway’s F. Alex Johnson. Photo: Julian Parker-Burns

What People Are Already Saying About Colorway’s Third Album, These Are The Days:

“GREAT guitar throughout these nine, tight, non-overproduced songs. Very fluid and imaginative playing and Alex isn’t afraid to take chances. An excellent album.” Tom Guerra, Vintage Guitar Magazine

“[‘These Are The Days’] . . . really packs a punch. –A.J. Wachtel

“‘These Are the Days’ shows Colorway’s breadth, without stinting on depth […] a rock-solid collection of songs with catchy hooks, taut riffs and hard-won wisdom.”–Eric R Danton, Listen, Dammit (Paste/WSJ/Rolling Stone)

“This record sounds f*cking great! Sounds like you’re channeling Golden Earring . . .  which is f*cking sweet.” –Chris Collingwood, Fountains of Wayne/Look Park

“Their third album is their strongest yet . . . songs you want to drive to on a summer day . . . songs to put a smile on your face.” Lauren Daley, Southcoast Today/The Boston Globe

“And shine they certainly do . . . with songs that will appeal to timeless pop-rock fans.” –PowerOfPop, Singapore

“Alex’s guitar playing is exceptional, and the whole vibe is positive and fun–well done!” Morgan Fisher, Mott the Hoople/Queen

“The nine tunes here showcase his ability to craft hooky pop-rock tunes and fill them with his always inventive guitar work.” –Sheryl Hunter, Greenfield Recorde

Great review of “These Are The Days” by Eric R. Danton, Listen Dammit (Paste/Pitchfork/Rolling Stone)

Originally published June 11, 2018

Every music town has people like F. Alex Johnson: the ones who seem like they’re always in motion, always enriching the scene, but don’t always have the visibility of peers whose names resonate further afield. Johnson has been that guy in Northampton for nearly 30 years, with the Drunk Stuntmen, as lead guitarist for the Young at Heart Chorus and, since 2012, with Colorway. The band’s new album, “These Are the Days,” is a rock-solid collection of songs with catchy hooks, taut riffs and hard-won wisdom.

Johnson and bassist Matthew Clegg and drummer/singer Riley Godleski — successors to original members Dave Hayes and JJ O’Connell — play together in a deep musical pocket, guitar riffs snaking their way through tight rhythm parts on songs that leave plenty of room for Johnson’s tuneful voice. He’s an unfussy singer with an ear for melody, and more than one of the songs here seems destined to spend time stuck in your head. “Love Is All Around You” is effervescent and catchy, and Johnson’s vocals on the title track provide a through line over a guitar part that alternates between noodly riffage and cascading arpeggios. Fountains of Wayne and Look Park singer Chris Collingwood adds backing vocals on the track, and also contributes to the sunny indie-pop number “Always Been Summer.” After a poppy first half, the album takes a more ornate turn on songs that have a different sense of urgency. Collingwood likened the sound to Golden Earring, which is about right on “Want to Be Everywhere,” with its propulsive rhythm and epic guitars. “Give It Away” has an uptempo boogie feel, while “Eyes Like Fire” is a full-throttle rocker full of bristling guitar and a wah-wah break.

Though Johnson’s guitar playing is often, and deservedly, a main focus, the songs on “These Are the Days” show Colorway’s breadth, without stinting on depth. It’s the kind of album that just might bring the band some attention beyond the Pioneer Valley.

Review of “These Are The Days” by A.J. Wachtel (The Noise)

COLORWAY
‘These Are The Days’
9 Tracks

The third release from this Northampton, MA. band is full of uptempo power pop rock songs that showcase a great guitarist and a terrific trio. Alex Johnson singing and on guitar, Matt Clegg playing bass and Riley Godleski on vocals and pounding have a CD of music dealing with the highs and lows of one Generation X’ers oncoming mid-life crisis. Bad romances, downward spirals, hard-fought recoveries, insights and understandings are the focus behind this guitar powered power pop/roots release. I like the way all the tunes start out with a nice guitar/ powerful rhythm section opening that paves the way for their hard driving melodies. The guitar is the heart and the rhythm section is the soul behind these cool compositions. Listen to the opening and title cut ‘These Are The Days,’ ‘Love Is All Around You,’ ‘Keys To The Kingdom,’ ‘Save Me,’ ‘Want To Be Everywhere,’ ‘Eyes Like Fire,’ ‘Give It Away,’ and ‘Golden Age’ to hear what I mean. My favorite cut, ‘Always Been Summer,’ has tight pop hooks and is full of soaring guitar licks and is real radio friendly. Co- produced by Danny Bernini (Blondie, Martin Sexton Band), there’s a lot of good original material here that really packs a punch. (A.J. Wachtel)

 
 

Stellar Review in The Valley Advocate

“‘These Are The Days’ will give you hope for humanity.”

Review by Chris Goudreau. Originally published 6/28/18

Northampton-based pop rock trio Colorway embodies the spirit of summer on its new nine-track record, “These Are The Days,” with inventive shredding guitar solos and catchy earworm melodies that for better or for worse promotes a simple message of peace, love, and understanding.

One of the best things about this song is the harmonized vocals on the chorus. It’s not too often that you see vocal harmonies in rock music, but when you do they tend to elevate a song to grandiose heights and “These Are The Days” (the song) is no exception.

Lyrically, the message of the song is simple and effective — “time doesn’t care” whether your days are filled with joy or despair. Time is an unmoving monolith in our lives and none of us knows when that time is up. “I look far ahead/ And fill in my calendar days/ So many plans/ To ride on the tracks that I laid/ But time doesn’t care/ No, time doesn’t care/ Much for me.”

“Love is All Around You” conveys a message that’s straight out of 1960s Summer of Love pop music in that you can find love in obscure little ways, whether you “hear it in a haiku/ Or see it in a tattoo.” Call me a cynic, but I think love being conveyed as ever present comes across as a flawed concept. Love and heartbreak tend to be companions and I think some of the best love songs are great because they marry anguish with ecstasy. That duality isn’t present on this song. That said, if you’re looking for some optimistic cheer with virtuoso guitar licks and a kick-ass rhythm section, give this song a listen.

“Always Been Summer” has a power pop streak a mile long that might wind up being your summer anthem for 2018. At its heart, this is a love song that’s a little saccharine lyrically, with the catchiest chorus on the record, you’ll be singing along in no time. Johnson’s guitar work is exquisite with a solo midway through the song that’s a musical puree of The Replacements, Big Star, Cheap Trick, and Weezer.

“Save Me” kicks off with a 1950s chord progression — a recipe for instant nostalgia. From there, Johnson throws in subtle quick and twisting guitar lines that sound like something off a Van Halen record; a really inventive experiment that surprisingly pays off. The chorus is swooningly beautiful; with lush backing vocals and great lyrics that convey feelings of vulnerability and heartache — “Save me/ Save me/ I’m barely breathing/ And I can’t believe it/ I walk through that door/ And I pull it closed behind/ I just can’t bear to lock it/ In case you change your mind.”

The album closes with “Golden Age,” a political song that’s not overtly political. This is a song about an optimist trying to come to terms with the suffering of the world on a daily basis, especially in times of discord and strife. “I can’t read the news anymore/ Every time I open my door/ And see the print below/ Say it isn’t so/ No no.”

Musically, this song is reminiscent of the work from George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.” There’s compassion and empathy to human suffering that connects with the music to create a pure message of hope. That, plus there’s shredding and spiraling guitar solos that you might find from the likes of Brian May of Queen.

“These Are The Days” is a record that’s unabashedly straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll, but with a compassionate heart. There’s messages of positivity that might warm the heart of even the Grinchiest of people. It gives you hope for humanity. Lyrically, the songs tend to stay simple, but the music makes up for this with finger gymnastic guitar solos and a tight and responsive rhythm section.

High Praise From Singapore

PowerOfPop’s Kevin Matthews reviews the new album. Originally published 7/9/18

Colorway return with another album that reflects just about everything I believe in as far as music making is concerned and how!

Consisting of F. Alex Johnson on guitar/vocals, Riley Godleski on drums/percussion/vocals and Matthew Clegg on bass, this Northampton MA based trio keeps things simple, by and large.

Working with the primary colors (pun intended) of guitar, bass and drums, Colorway make music that covers the various moods and styles within Power Pop Rock N Roll.

So, expect melody, attitude and competent instrumentation that coalesce naturally on quality songs like “Love Is All Around You”, “Save Me” and the title track.

The arrangements are straightforward but they make sense within what the band is trying to achieve, saving space in the mix for the vocals and guitars to shine.

And shine they certainly do, with the solid rhythm section behind him, vocalist/guitarist F Alex Johnson is allowed express himself with songs that will appeal to timeless pop-rock fans.

Worth checking out, my dear PoP faithful!

National/International Media:

“‘Come Back July’ . . .  is a perfect representation of the band’s ability to craft an impossibly catchy pop-rock tune.” –Chuck Armstrong, Diffuser

“Fresh, melodic and brilliant!” –Lord Litter’s Magic Music Box International, Berlin, Germany

“When you talk about great guitarists in the Valley, Alex Johnson’s name is always in the mix. Whether he’s playing meaty and melodic hooks with his rock trio, Colorway, gigging solo or handling myriad riffs as part of the backing band for the Young@Heart Chorus, Johnson’s in complete command of the fretboard.” –Steve Pfarrer, Daily Hampshire Gazette.

 “I’m a sucker for a well-crafted guitar solo, and Colorway’s are way more than just tearing through the pentatonic scale. Johnson pulls from a sizable bag of tricks that help keep every song fresh.” –Jake Bissaro, Motif Magazine

“In total, Colorway has released one of the finest rock albums of 2015.” –Ric Albano, Modern Rock Review

“. . . if you’re a fan of no-nonsense, head-boppin’ rock albums, you’ll wear a nice groove into this one.” –Hunter Styles, Valley Advocate

“. . . 10 tracks of 100% pure shots of classic pop-rock songwriting brilliance.” –Kevin Matthews, Power Of Pop, Singapore.

“That [Colorway], manage to create as full a sound as they do as a trio, and to bring a kind of rugged enthusiasm to their approach, is a mark in their favor.” –Francis DiMenno, The Noise.

“[The Black Sky Sequined] is a rock album for people who like smart, memorable music with tastefully adept musicianship.” –Chuck Foster, The Big Takeover

“. . . a solid album.” –Alex Chagun, SLUG Magazine.

“Do yourself a favor and track down a copy of The Black Sky Sequined. You won’t regret it.” –Jeffrey Sisk, Pittsburgh In Tune

“At times [Alex] reminds me of a mash up of Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and that Aussie dude, Keith Urban. Wrap your head around that combination.” –Craig Hartranft, Dangerdog Music Reviews

” . . . that disregard for what’s trendy is exactly why Colorway is worth seeking out . . . with Colorway, you sense an unspoken credo: Stick to what you know, and do it at the highest level possible.” –Michael Hamad, Hartford Courant/CTnow.com

Booking/Press/Radio:
Alex Johnson
alex@colorwaymusic.com
413.320.8541

 

 

Live Reviews:

Review of Colorway at Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, 2/15/18

Review by Phil Simon from Live Music News and Reviews, originally posted on 2/15/18. Read the full show review here.

The trio, fronted by F Alex Johnson has a great rhythm section in Matthew Clegg on bass and Riley Godleski on drums and vocals.  They powered their way through a dozen songs, many of which are being set for release on the band’s new album which should be coming out this spring.  Johnson deftly fronts the band on guitar and vocals, with the three of them easily coming together and becoming a solid unit.

The influences are twofold, the Beatles or Buddy Holly and sixties era rock and pop, but almost more so the next generation that was influenced by those bands is the primary influence on Colorway.  Weezer, Fountains of Wayne, I’m guessing Elvis Costello, XTC, and others who are influenced by the first wave of rock and roll, have influenced this seemingly third wave derived from the roots of rock.

Johnson is able to go from three-minute melodically-focused pop songs to more epic eight to ten minute songs that include guitar journeys that are less indulgent than they are exploratory.  The maturity of his writing and performing are on display and just because the world isn’t familiar or fawning over his work for the last twenty years does not diminish the evolution and expertise with which he has crafted his music.  Fans from melodic pop to garage will find his next album to be very satisfying I expect.

Colorway at Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center just now. Yesss

Posted by Kara Kharmah on Thursday, February 15, 2018

 

The Republican/Masslive’s Donnie Moorehouse had this to say about Colorway’s performance opening for Foreigner at The Calvin Theater on 5/6/16:

Local rock trio Colorway supported the show with a strong opening set, putting a Valley-band touch on the power-trio with hints of the Beatles, understated Clash, and lo fi / Americana. Led by F. Alex Johnson (Drunk Stuntmen) the band delivered great hooks with driving rhythms and soaring guitar.

Read the review of the whole show here. 

Live Music News and Reviews did a nice piece on our show at The Root Cellar in Greenfield, MA with Flux Capacitor on 9/3/16.

Read the review and check out some audio/video here.

 

Show preview and album review from Motif Magazine 

 

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Written by Jake Bissaro. Originally published in Motif Magazine, 11/9/16

On Friday, November 18th, the Western Mass rock band Colorway will be treating the Ocean State to a free show at Pour Judgement in Newport. Colorway combines Big Star hooks with guitar wizardry to create catchy earworms that make the repeat button come in handy.

Some may know frontman Alex Johnson as the former lead guitarist for Northampton alt-country outfit Drunk Stuntmen and as the guitarist from the Young at Heart Chorus, a group of 70+-year-olds who sing punk songs. In 2013, after decades as a sideman, Johnson decided to step into the spotlight, with excellent results.

Colorway’s second album, The Black Sky Sequined, came out in 2015 to much acclaim. From the sound of it, Johnson has settled into the new digs easily, doubling up on lead guitar and vocals, often at the same time. The band also has a great rhythm section and awesome harmonies courtesy of Matt Clegg on bass and Riley Godleski on drums.

I’m a sucker for a well-crafted guitar solo, and Colorway’s are way more than just tearing through the pentatonic scale. Johnson pulls from a sizable bag of tricks that help keep every song fresh.

He’s no slouch in the lyrics department, either. After years of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, Johnson got sober, and reflects on his newfound lifestyle in “I Never Changed.”

“I washed all my clothes in gasoline/And abandoned my unique identity/All my plaids/All my stripes/Burned a brilliant runway white.”

“Telephone” is an entertaining look at the overbearing presence of technology.

“I used to look ahead/But this is the future/In the palm of my hand/No matter where you are/A plane a train a car/Just can’t beat my telephone there.”In a time when it’s so easy to grab a MacBook and throw in tons of reverb, delay and whatever else the kids are using these days, it’s really refreshing to hear an album with well-crafted, un-fooled-around-with rock songs that stand on their own. And they totally pull it off live; other than occasional extra guitar track, what you’re hearing on Black Sky is what you’re getting in the flesh.

Colorway is based in Northampton, Massachusetts, the center of the great music scene that has recently produced acts like And the Kids and Speedy Ortiz. The Western Massachusetts scene reminds me a lot of Providence: big enough to be interesting and diverse, but small enough that you’re able to grab a beer with the guy you just saw doing a stage dive. I attended UMass Amherst right down the road, and have many fond memories of the Iron Horse and Pearl Street.

This will be a good one, so get out and see it if you can!

Colorway plays Pour Judgement on Friday, Nov 18 at 10pm. Show is free!

 

Stellar Review by The Valley Advocate! 

Screenshot 2015-05-18 11.11.58

Review by Hunter Stylesoriginally published in the Valley Advocate, 10/29/15

Where on the spectrum does Colorway play? I might say these musicians are best at capturing the light, bright tones of late morning or mid-afternoon, given their talent for writing sunny and engaging pop songs.

But band leader F. Alex Johnson, one of the founders of the alt-country group Drunk Stuntmen, has a nocturnal cast about him. He is a veteran of the local roadhouse rock scene, lit by neon and bathed in shadow. From his thick and gritty guitar work, it shows.

The songs on Colorway’s second full-length album, The Black Sky Sequined, strike a sublime balance between light and dark, sweet and dour. Across 10 tracks — some good; some great — the band leans radio-friendly, and nothing here reinvents the wheel. But if you’re a fan of no-nonsense, head-boppin’ rock albums, you’ll wear a nice groove into this one.

Through his un-showy singing style and introspective lyrics, Johnson mostly comes off as a softie — his other regular gig is playing guitar with Northampton’s Young@Heart senior chorus — and here he is wishing on good deeds and second chances. “Maybe all the pressure/ didn’t make a gem/ Anyone can sparkle/ We can live again,” he sings on “Gen Exit,” the catchy opening track. “Take me, I am ready/ I can feel it kicking in.”

That song — full of driving drums, crisp electric guitar riffs, and rich moments of harmony — sets the tone for a streamlined and cleanly-produced record. With nice work from Dave Hayes on bass and JJ O’Connell on drums, these tunes are full of texture, but sleekly composed.

That’s no big surprise, since the self-produced album — which was recorded by Mark Alan Miller at Sonelab in Easthampton — was mastered in Portland, Maine by veteran sound engineer Bob Ludwig, who won several Grammy awards in February, including two for Beck’s Morning Phase, which won album of the year.

At one point, Johnson says, Ludwig exclaimed that the fifth track had “a great solo … there’s lots of great solos on this record.” Ludwig is right. And the song he was referring to, called “Me and My Baby,” is one of the album’s standouts, leaping back and forth between crunchy blues-rock verses and dreamy power-chord refrains, like a Black Keys song swept up by Fountains of Wayne.

“Maybe you’ll see me tomorrow/ and we can try it again,” Johnson sings. “Maybe you’ll see me tomorrow/ and we can try to be friends.”

That’s Colorway’s message in a nutshell. When Johnson sings about life’s trials, he has mud on his boots but stars in his eyes. He has been around the block a few times. But whenever he circles back to familiar turf, he’s prepared to see it in a new light.

Colorway plays The Half Door in Hartford on Nov. 4. The Black Sky Sequined is available for digital download at colorwaymusic.com and in-store at select businesses in Amherst, Easthampton, and Northampton.•

 

Singapore’s Power Of Pop gives The Black Sky Sequined a rave review!

Review by Kevin Matthews originally published 8/3 at Power Of Pop.

Now this is what I call rock ’n’ roll! Colorway’s sophomore effort finds the trio once again burning their way through 10 tracks of 100% pure shots of classic pop-rock songwriting brilliance.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist F. Alex Johnson and the steady rhythm section of Dave Hayes (Bass/Vocals) &
J.J. O’Connell (Drums/Percussion/Vocals) have delivered the perfect antidote to those who believe that good old fashioned pop-rock music is somehow irrelevant in 2015.

If you think 5 Seconds of Summer is guitar rock, then you might want to keep sucking your pacifier – this is music for adults – where a penchant for smart lyrics & sophisticated songwriting are married with an honest application of rock instrumentation.

From the opening driving “Gen Exit” to the closing epic “Telephone”, it’s all tight as a drum without any flab whatsoever. No mean feat. Highly recommended!

 

High Praise for The Black Sky Sequined from Modern Rock Review 

Review by Ric Albano. Originally published in Modern Rock Review, 8/29/15Screenshot 2015-09-01 16.05.00

The Black Sky Sequined, is the second album by the Massachusetts-based trio, Colorway. The music is a showcase for vocalist and guitarist F. Alex Johnson, who fuses strong elements of new wave and classic rock with well-formed melodies and arrangements which are just unique enough to give everything a nice edge. While the compositions on the surface seem standard, even simple, they each contain enough underlying complexity to require additional listens to fully catch and appreciate everything presented here.

For about a decade through 2008, Johnson and drummer J.J. O’Connell were in an alt-rock group called Drunk Stuntmen. Johnson admits that he embraced the “Drunk” part of the group’s name too strongly and decided to leave the group and take a break from music for several years. However, the music sought Johnson out as he woke at night with new melodies in his head which he slowly developed into songs. In 2012, he got back in touch with O’Connell and recruited bassist Dave Hayes to rehearse and record new music. The result was Colorway’s self-titled debut album which was released in June 2013 with the trio playing their first ever live gig at the CD release party. Both the recording and live performance were well received and the group has been steadily playing since.

While Johnson again wrote most of the material for The Black Sky Sequined, the sound was forged more collectively as a true working band. Like the debut, this album was recorded at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA and co-produced/engineered by Mark Alan Miller, with whom Johnson has been working for about twenty years. Further, it was mastered by Grammy Award winning Bob Ludwig, who has over 3,000 credits to his name dating back to The Beatles, the Stones and Jimi Hendrix. The album got its title from a poem written by Johnson’s late mother, Judy.

The album begins with “Gen Exit”, with a straight forward pop/rock drilling riff until more variety is added to the riff in the later verses. The slight guitar lead is simple but effective, with the profound lyrical message of; “Its awful gray between holding your own and just hanging around.” “Come Back July” features a strong, thumping bass and overall rhythm throughout the verse that really draws in the listener. The highly melodic vocals that get the point across of the lyrical theme of life going by too quickly. The first single from the album, “Come Back July” was actually written by Johnson between 9pm and midnight on July 31st, where the prospect of August meant the coming of Fall and the cold of New England.

Come back July I never said goodbye, Light all those lonely Roman candles into that August sky…”

“I Don’t Want to Go Home” is a song which has a different vibe than the previous two, a much more classic rock approach, especially with the thick, bluesy electric guitars and fine guitar lead by Johnson, arriving for the first of many times on the album. This song also references the album’s title in the lyric. “Explain” has a jazzy rock approach, especially with the animated bass and top notch drumming by the rhythm section. There is also a different melodic approach originally before the song does eventually build with a stronger rock arrangement. In contrast, “Me and My Baby” has a dark country/rock feel, slow and direct with plenty of room for strong guitar notes to whine throughout this six minute, extended track. This complex song goes through various interesting changes in the middle before returning to the main theme and a fantastic ending guitar riff which persists through a long outro with multiple vocal harmony parts reminiscent of a technique used by Phish.

The oddest song on the album, “The Cycle” begins with rich vocal harmonies over a simple intro guitar before the song then enters a long guitar lead for its entertaining duration. “Tiny Town” returns to pop/rock with assertive riffing between the melodic words and animated drumming by O’Connell that nicely works in tandem with the thumping bass line of Hayes. A later overdubbed, whining guitar dances around the crunchy original rhythm guitar, which never relents in the mix, offering some odd musical tension that makes this track distinct. “Everybody Wants Me to Love You” is, perhaps, the closest to filler on the entire album, not all that terrible as a rapid ska-influenced track, but also not all that inventive compared to the rest of the music.

“I Never Changed” is a bluesy song with entertaining lyrics and an interesting overall arrangement which was co-written by Jodi Lynn Nicholas. Overall, the measured interplay between lead vocals and guitar licks make it one of the stronger tracks on the album. Perhaps the strongest overall, is the closer “Telephone”, which starts as a happy-go-lucky pop song commenting on contemporary culture and reliance on technology. Later on the song makes some interesting turns before it finishes with an excellent, extended guitar solo along with the inclusion of a slight horn section as a closing jam which leaves the listener wanting for more.

On The Black Sky Sequined the group successfully forged the kind of music which maximized their talents while being accessible to a large listening audience. In total, Colorway has released one of the finest rock albums of 2015.

Skope Magazine gives TBSS 4/5 Stars

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Review by Jason Hillenburg originally published in Skope 6/16/15

Lou Reed never believed rock music, the great populist art form of our age, was condemned to disposability. He devoted significant time in the second half of his career to writing works of extraordinary depth like New York, Magic and Loss, and Songs for Drella with the hopes these albums combined the thematic weight of a literary work with the visceral punch of rock instrumentation. Opinions vary wildly about the merit of such an exercise or his ultimate success. Colorway, without question, aspires to the same ideal on their album The Black Sky Sequined. They couple wiry, lean musical textures with sharply observed lyrics in an aural equivalent of Hemingway’s “iceberg theory” that if writers know “… enough of what [they are] writing about [they] may omit things that [they know] and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.” From the failed and faded dreamers in songs like “Gen Exit” to the anguished narrators and clenched-fist survivors of songs like “Explain” and “I Don’t Want to Go Home”, Colorway and lyricist F. Alex Johnson know more than they are showing and The Black Sky Sequined is a better experience for it.

“Gen Exit” opens the album and sets the sonic paradigm. Johnson’s guitar work has extraordinary suggestiveness. His terse phrasing has such a clean, decisive touch that each line seems bristling with barely contained energy. The rhythm section of Dave Hayes on bass and J.J. O’Connell on drums is wiry and unobtrusive, but their penchant for creating space in the composition distinguishes their playing and Johnson fills these spaces with attentive vocals. There’s not a great deal of emotion in Johnson’s vocal beyond an appealing, darkly sardonic edge. That’s the point. This is an observer’s voice offering listeners a precise character study in miniature and those moments of implied judgment in his vocal add immeasurably to the performance.

“Come Back July” invokes nostalgia for lost time in its first two verses with almost Proustian recall of detail. The opening simile sets the tone for simple, yet breathtakingly exact, imagery like tearing up a calendar, shaking the sand from your shoes, and driving to the water. Johnson’s technique of marrying the specific with the universal is on full display here with the song’s later turn towards generalities and the band’s minimalist backing approximates the rousing energies of the season with confidence and tastefulness. The mid-tempo blues burn of “Explain” will immediately grab attention with Johnson’s authoritative tightrope walk on the fret board. It’s easy to fall into overstatement on a song like this, but his playing maintains a delicate balancebetween pathos and guitar-hero histrionics.

Colorway take an unexpected turn with the largely instrumental “The Cycle”. Rather than offering up more of the stripped-down guitar attack of earlier songs, Colorway elongates melodies and stretches out instrumentally without ever losing the economy of approach characterizing the album as a whole. “Everybody Wants Me to Love You” percolates with a caffeinated bounce and shows off more humor than perhaps any other track on the album. The Black Sky Sequined concludes with the layered, yet subtly humorous, “Telephone”. It’s perhaps not the most original of subjects, looking at the alienating effects of technology on our basic human need to connect, but Johnson’s lyric and another convincing vocal colors familiar ground with unexpected flair.

It isn’t a perfect outing. Some songs are a bit longer than needed and will upset, for some, the aesthetic heard elsewhere on the album. Colorway’s The Black Sky Sequined excels when everything is pared back to the bone – at its best, the clarity and immediacy are overwhelming

Score: 4/5 Stars

Brooklyn’s The Big Takeover on The Black Sky Sequined 

Review by Chuck Foster.

Two years after their debut, Northampton, MA trio, Colorway, hone their sound with a solid, no-frills sophomore release.

The Black Sky Sequined attacks with a hook-laden power-pop punch that pervades through all ten songs. A classic rock sensibility also marks the album, allowing sophisticated songcraft and excellent execution to come to the forefront. With very few exceptions, the recording consists solely of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter F. Alex Johnson (Drunk StuntmenThe Young at Heart Chorus), bassist Dave Hayes and drummer JJ O’Connell with minimal overdubs, giving an intimate, live feel to the overall production. As the tracks progress, Johnson’s guitar mastery blossoms, his guitar solos hinting at prog and Frank Zappa. It’s a rock album for people who like smart, memorable music with tastefully adept musicianship.

Whether Colorway become indie rock sensations or remain Northampton’s best-kept secret, they’ll continue to create strong music because that’s who they are. Hopefully, it doesn’t take another two years for the next one.

Originally published in The Big Takeover, 5/11/15

3.5 out of 5 stars from Pittsburgh In Tune 

Review by Jeffrey Sisk.

If straight-forward, guitar-driven rock is your thing, I’d suggest you give “The Black Sky Sequined” a handful of spins. It’s the sophomore full-length from Massachusetts trio Colorway and provides a nice blend of driving riffs and hook-filled melodies.

Colorway released their self-titled debut in 2012 and are fronted by F. Alex Johnson, who cut his teeth in alt-country outfit Drunk Stuntmen and senior citizen sensation Young@Heart. He’s joined in the band by bassist Dave Hayes and drummer J.J. O’Connell, and Colorway’s lead single “Come Back July” is a terrific introduction to the band and the album.

“I love the summer as any New Englander would,” Johnson says of “Come Back July.” “But you know what comes after August? The fall. And with it comes the cold, things start to die, and then it all goes straight to hell. I wanted to write a love song to the time of year when my little slice of the world feels the most alive.”

Additional standouts on the 10-track, 45-minute platter include “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” “Me and My Baby,” “Tiny Town,” “Everybody Wants Me to Love You” and sprawling set closer “Telephone.” Do yourself a favor and track down a copy of The Black Sky Sequined. You won’t regret it. 

Originally published 5/6/15 in Pittsburgh In Tune.

 

Review of The Black Sky Sequined from The Noise, Boston, MA.

Review by Francis DiMenno.

Opener “Gen Exit” is classic ’70s rock with elements of BTO, Deep Purple, and other arena-rock stalwarts. The ’70s-centric approach sets the stage for much of what is to follow. “Come Back July” has the casual feel of Wreckless Eric, but with a similar arena rock superstructure. “I Don’t Want to Go Home” reminds me a bit of the hippified excursions of Steve Miller, with a bit of Beatles tucked in. “The Cycle” offers a bit of a change-up, with harmony vocals and a new-agey chiming guitar as intro and a melancholic guitar line which is an intriguing bit of rock craftsmanship. The excellent, lively, “Everybody Wants Me to Love You” has a rhythm reminiscent of XTC’s “Crowded Room,” which devolves into a chugging rock song replete with clangorous guitar runs and a slap-happy hook in the refrain. “Telephone” is a jaunty number, with an impressively catchy rhythm line and horn section, and with extended guitar runs stretched out to epic length good enough to encourage nearly every budding young guitarist to go and do likewise. That Northampton-based guitarist and songwriter F. Alex Johnson, with bassist Dave Hayes and drummer J.J. O’Connell, manage to create as full a sound as they do as a trio, and to bring a kind of rugged enthusiasm to their approach, is a mark in their favor. 

Originally published April 29, 2015 in The Noise.

The Black Sky Sequined gets 4 of 5 stars from Dangerdog Music Reviews 

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Review by Craig Hartranft. Originally published 4/22/15

Colorway is the creation of the quite accomplished Boston guitarist and songwriter Alex Johnson, along with his rhythm section Dave Hayes on bass and J. J. O’Connell on drums. Put power trio out of your mind for the moment. Colorway is definitely a platform for Johnson’s voice in songwriting and guitar.

 It’s been a few weeks since I spun this album, but my notes suggest that I liked it. Second time, I wondered if I was premature in my judgment. But no. Johnson’s skill at song writing, basic melodic rock composition is nimble and engaging. Yet, I think the best aspect about this album is his guitar playing.

Johnson has a consistent sound across the album. The tone of his guitar has a balance of raw and crispness, a sharpness as it were, but still smooth. At times he reminds me of a mash up of Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and that Aussie dude, Keith Urban. Wrap your head around that combination. I liked it best when the licks and groove of his leads were extended, in the true sense of a guitar solo, as within The Cycle or Telephone. The latter song demonstrates Johnson’s gift for arranging, countering his guitar with some horns. Additionally, Johnson is a solid vocalist with a clean melodic style. He works his voice with the rest of the band for some strong harmonies. As for the rhythm section I was looking for some descriptive words. Unpretentious, but solid and skillful, a complete compliment to Johnson’s guitar and compositions.

My conclusion, in the end, is that Johnson’s guitar work overshadows most everything here, from lyrical voice to basic song composition. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily so, but it did have me listening more for his guitar chops than anything else. So call Colorway and The Black Sky Sequined a guitar-centered album. It’s rather self-evident. Recommended.

 Read this review and many others at Dangerdog Music Reviews.

Punk Globe with a quick take on the new album

Thanks to Ginger Coyote at Punk Globe for her quick review of The Black Sky Sequined

“The CD has ten good tracks and well worth a listen.”

Praise from Singapore

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Originally published 9/18/2013

Rock n’ roll will never die! This just might be power trio Colorway‘s manifesto on this eponymous debut. Rollicking numbers like “I’m Still Running” and “Live With Me” get the point across very succinctly. But singer-songwriter F Alex Johnson is also able to shake things up somewhat with the the sweet lullaby “Go Back to Sleep”, the acoustic instrumental “For the Birds” and the luscious ballad “A Temporary Occupation”. Highly recommended.

~Kevin Mathews, Powerofpop.com, Singapore

 

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Originally published in the Valley Advocate, 8/22/2013

Colorway, Colorway
(Molehill Mountain Productions)

At its core, F. Alex Johnson’s debut solo effort is, in his own words, “a rock and roll record” through and through. Spanning the spectrum of rock styles (and the neck of his guitar), Johnson’s 12 original songs are held up as much by their sweet guitar riffs as by their catchy, stuck-in-your-head-all-day melodies. “I’m Still Running,” “This Happens to Everyone” and even “Style of the Time” are on one end of that spectrum, as hard-charging and head-banging as any mainstream rock song. The more surprising turns on the album come in the form of slower songs, like rock lullaby “Go Back to Sleep,” where Johnson and co-writer Jodi Lynn Nicholas relate the feeling of waking from a bad dream, and a gorgeous acoustic instrumental, “For the Birds.” Catchy stuff with nice rock harmonies.

Erin McDaniel

Review In The Examiner.com

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 Originally published August 21, 2013 on Examiner.com.

ColorwayColorway (Molehill Mountain Productions )

Drunk Stuntmen co-founder/guitarist and Young@Heart Chorus sideman, F. Alex Johnson, is in fine form on this stunning debut. Johnson’s Drunk Stuntmen days were no myth — the singer-songwriter nearly didn’t get out alive and the song cycle here reflects on that period in the partly confessional and partly apologetic songs, “I’m Still Running” and “We Move On” minus the recovery pathos. While Johnson’s songs are introspective and self-reflective in nature (“This Happens to Everyone”), they positively crackle with the intensity of someone who’s survived their own self-destruction and acquired some folksy wisdom (“Go Back to Sleep,” “Live With Me”) along the way.

Backed by veteran western MA musicians, Dave Hayes (bass) and J.J. O’ Connell (drums), Johnson’s guitar playing is agile, ferocious and perfectly paired to his tight rhythm section. Stand out tracks like “A Temporary Occupation” with its gorgeous string arrangements and blissed-out guitar solo, and the philosophical “Everyone Makes the Day” underlies Johnson’s journey into self-discovery (and satisfying Steps 8 & 9).

~Vincent Bator Springfield Indie Music Examiner

In His Own Words: A Review Of Colorway’s First Live Performance By Connolly Ryan

SHE COMES IN COLOURS EVERYWHERE

The Colorway Coming Out Party—review by Connolly Ryan of the Irish Jew Gazette

Last night at the Iron Horse a nascent slice of history ensued. The evening began with Dave Houghton (Fancy Trash): the one-man acoustical cavalry. The freakish intensity of his 12-guage body language: contorting like a union worker under the blows of a corporate goon’s blackjack; his pearl-black guitar convulsing like compassion’s jackhammer, wired with a procreative destructive torque, fully aware that the stakes are deadly and that the world is in peril, all served to give this gracefully maniacal troubadour’s performance the kind of edge that takes hostages and makes delicious love to them. When Horton hears a Houghton (that is, when Dave opens his life to spill forth song) a crazed and gorgeous alchemy is uncorked: a seamless melding of rage and prayer, of openness and brokenness, of assurance and assault—pain without restraint is how he paints our planet, and bliss minus regret is where he plants his stars which, unlike the ones in Hollywood, are visible all around him. In short, Dave Houghton kicked the shit out of shit itself and opened the way for the barrage of improbable colors on deck.

Dirty and Tight
Dirty: the raucous squalor of Alex Johnson’s irrepressible axe, conjuring a snarling galaxy of legendary decibels: the bottled shatterings of Robert Johnson (yes relation!);the mystical riptides of Page; the clean horror of Slash; the tortured matrix of Hendrix; and even the latticework calculus of Fripp and Eno. Dirty, filthy, punishing, watershed, astonishing : your-daughter’s-run-away-from-home explosions of truth that make your ears long for welder’s goggles lest the bulwark sparks set those delicate organs ablaze.

Dirty: J.J. O’ Connell’s reckless exactitude, whip-crack precision: A stroke-triggering backyard tree-snap squeezed into a drum-kit. Primitive and futurist at once: measuring the tempo with painstaking poise, drenched in fierce loyalty to the project at hand and then unleashing a murderer’s madrigal, a deafening beheading of inertia, cracking the fuck out of any escape-plan. Like a freight-train through a fricasseed prairie, raising the stakes and razing the sticks… his reassuring Robin Williams Torso cleaving away at its sultry art: to pulverize as well as cultivate. His mantra: to detonate is to celebrate. By evening’s end his drumsticks, disfigured and traumatized, cry out for Mommy Earth.

Dave Hayes on Bass. So filthy he’s immaculate. Radiating commodious melody and merciless funk; delineating liquid parameters lest the sonic caboose go barreling off the perspiring precipice. Hayes clutches his church-key and jams it into the sky-socket, anchoring the celestial anarchy (a Mingus amongst nimbuses) of his mercurial band-mates as only a true weather nut can. Navigating the nerve-splintering codas and cadences; negotiating a firmamental covenant amid the haunted lullabies, derelict homilies and third-rail psalms of Colorway’s all-devouring opus.

Tight. Sleek. Loping. Profuse. Ornery. Refined. Sustained and stunned. The old wooden Iron Horse stage done morphed into a cauldron of clarity, symmetry, fluidity and light. Alex’s lyrics and vocals mellowing and lulling, protective of something unnamable yet tangible all the same. Flashes of the confessional tactfully nestled into the bristles and thistles of the naked agony they’ve arisen from. A marriage of cleverness and vulnerability abuzz inside each song. And each song a singular anthem of intimacy: a tapestry of complications and conflicts, vigorously addressed, but compellingly, brilliantly unresolved of yet. Dirty, tight and beautiful: one exited the Horse exhausted and exulted, throttled and grateful, inebriated with the certainty that this Colorway concert will be the first of a thousand resounding ones to come.