Michael Johnson Photo

Michael Johnson Gets Bluer Than Blues

Jon Bream
Minneapolis StarTribune
December 30, 2009

After 20-some post-Christmas shows at the Guthrie, Orchestra Hall and elsewhere, Michael Johnson found the perfect post-Yule place in 2009: the Dakota Jazz Club.

The warmth of his voice, guitar and the club was embracing on a very cold Tuesday night.

The former Minnesota troubadour's acoustic guitar added an alluring artfulness as he sang about pining for a favorite tree, being a worry wart and being an April fool. Local jazz singer Maud Hixson joined him for Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do" and Kenny Rankin's "In the Name of Love." But it was mostly Mr. Bluer Than Blue singing about blues that had nothing to do with 12 bars.

While Johnson's tunes may have been a bit on the emotional downbeat side ("It's not a wrist-slitter" he said introducing one song), his easy humor eased the pain. He seemed to have a joke or funny story between every song. He even essayed one spoof, "Blew By You," a sendup of Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou" about a singer's (Orbison's?) toupee blown by the wind.

Afterward, Johnson told the jam-packed club: "I co-wrote this song with Roy Orbison after he died because it's so much easier... I know I ruined that song for you now."

Because I wanted to watch part of the Kennedy Center Honors, I didn't stick around for Johnson's second set, which presumably featured "Bluer Than Blue."