The Aisle Seat/Gamut! Magazine
Libby Johnson's "Annabella" and Trust the Man Soundtrack

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    Fans of the New York City band 22 Brides may be familiar with the name Libby Johnson, but to others she is less familiar. That may soon change. The singer/songwriter is on the verge of releasing her first solo album, Annabella (in stores Sept. 5), and her music is prominently featured in the just-released movie Trust the Man. 2006 may turn out to be the year Johnson gains wider recognition.

    Her background is certainly as interesting as her music. Born in Germany, Johnson was raised in the U.S. until the age of 13, at which time her family moved to Nairobi, Kenya. Everyone in the household was musical. A self- taught piano player, Johnson also learned to play guitar. Her teacher was her mother, who was a folk singer. Her father played bagpipes. At the tender age of 14, Johnson performed in public for the first time – at a Nairobi pub.

    "Nairobi is full of amazing things,” she said. “That move was probably the single most influential thing to happen to me. It gave me a sense of compassion that I might not have if I'd continued living in the U.S. I was unencumbered and open to having a lot of different experiences and meeting a lot of different people."

    As an adult, she decided to return to the United States, settling in New York City. Along with sister Carrie, she formed 22 Brides, released three albums, and earned a slot on the 1998 Lilith Fair tour.

    Now she’s poised to make it as a solo artist. "There's a deep place in my heart for that band,” she reflects on 22 Brides. “I loved working with my sister. But I am ready to let go of the band in a really positive way."

    Judging from Annabella, Libby Johnson is off to a strong start. The CD is full of soulful, musically interesting songs that are full of emotion. “Undone” is a powerful song about a woman who feels her life is in turmoil, while “Don’t Mean You Lost Your Love” is a folk-rock tune with an undeniably catchy hook.

    Particularly interesting is the title track, which benefits from Johnson’s infirmity. "I wrote that song one day when I was really sick,” she explains. “I had laryngitis when I was singing it. We took the demo and added [drummer] Steve [Jordan's] parts." The resultant effect gives the song an effectively surreal quality. "The song is really what the Annabella character wishes she could hear someone say to her. She's remembering a feeling she had for someone, wishing it were still there and longing for it to come back."

    In addition to the eleven fine songs on Annabella, Johnson can also be heard on the soundtrack to Trust the Man, the new comedy from writer/director Bart Freundlich (The Myth of Fingerprints, World Traveler). The film stars David Duchovny, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Billy Crudup, and Julianne Moore, who feels the music contributes to the tone of the movie: “"Libby's music is so soulful and heartfelt. What she's done for this film reminds me of what Aimee Mann did for Magnolia." Quite a compliment, as fans of Magnolia know.

    For Johnson, her songs were a perfect fit for Freundlich’s story. “"I think that the themes of the film and the songs on my record had a commonality and that's why they worked well together. We were both writing about disharmony, resolution and the struggles that go on in a relationship, and the record and film both really speak to that."

    The soundtrack also features tunes by Preacherman (the hooky “It Is What It Is”), Ben Harper (“Everything”), and Chocolate Genius (“Half a Man”). Other artists included are Dave’s True Story, Ann Colville, and Kelly Padrick. Unlike many soundtracks, while haphazardly assemble a bunch of unrelated songs, the Trust the Man CD is musically consistent. It’s clear that a lot of care was put into selecting songs that complimented each other in addition to the film.

    Both CDs are worth listening to and will provide easygoing listening pleasure when you give them a spin starting Sept. 5, 2006.

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