Johnny Irion: Always Lookin' Out

When you're playing "Union Made" and other old, very traditional folk songs "Roman Candle" can sound like Sonic Youth.

-Johnny Irion


The Family

Woodie Guthrie
It's not often one marries into a cultural phenomenon but Irion did just that when he joined the Guthrie clan. Spend a little time with the man and his music and you see it's a natural fit but just mention Arlo Guthrie and his name has a connotation in our culture that's way different than saying Ted or Bob. Being a Guthrie means participating in a legacy that Woody started in the 1940s.

"If it had not been for this family I don't know what I'd be doing in my life. I think all this happened for a reason. Sarah Lee is everything to me. It changed my life meeting her. I fell in love, and I never thought about having a family. That was the furthest thing from my mind when I moved out to L.A. in 1997. Meeting her is the best move I ever made. I think it's fate," offers Irion, his voice achingly sincere.

"I'd always had that socially conscious thing that makes you want to say something but you don't know how. Woody and Pete [Seeger] taught me how to do it without being too preachy-teachy," adds Irion.

"As far as the legacy now, well, even people who book us say, 'We were looking for something a little more rockin'.' Well, did you listen to the records? It's a dull edge sword. You constantly feel you're proving yourself to those kind of people. We like it all. We play Rhodes piano. Is that folk? Is that rock? We like to sit down and play acoustic. We like to play with bass and drums. We might even throw on a drum machine, and it's like Dylan plugging in."

"I would hope if people have any preconceptions they'd put them aside. Some people think they know who Woody is - the guy who wrote 'This Land Is Your Land' - but they don't really know. He was also an unbelievable artist. He wrote books, he wrote freakin' plays and he wore it on his sleeve and he really cared. That's been a huge inspiration to believe you can do anything you want with hard work. He tells us, 'You can do what you want to do and who says you can't?'"

Johnny Irion
That indomitable spirit infuses Irion's decision to make the sophomore solo album he wanted and put it out himself. "We've had to really do it ourselves. We'll see how this one goes, guinea pig ourselves on this one. And who's to say this was the proper one to do that with," laughs Irion.

In defiance of this vinyl killing age, they just released a 7" single of "She Cast Fire" b/w "Eyes Like A Levee," which should be a staple of every jukebox in every honky tonk if there's any justice.

"This music thing is a crazy thing," muses Irion. "We've been building a house, and building a house is a lot like producing a record. We picked a really good crew, and we were able to come up with some money [pause] from the bank [laughs]. Though with construction you can actually see where the money's going [laughs]. It's an obtainable goal but for me, solo, it's a long road. It's not the easiest thing in the world to do but most things worth doing usually aren't."

I know our goals were all mixed up
Its hard to drink from an empty cup
The way it was we knew we couldn't last
But now there's nothing that we can't get passed

JamBase | Endless Skyway
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 8/22/07]

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!

You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!



‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/29/2007 05:40AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

this is a palatable album. its kinda folk acoustic in nature.

its simple and straight forward. quite ok.

of course its not a jamband, any more than Rilo Kiley is or jason isbell.

I really do not mind jambase writing about everything in the music world, even if some of it may be irritating to us. I like to keep up on music, even if I am not a fan of certain artists.

snappy Wed 8/29/2007 08:06AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Milesgone, appreciate you trying to be open minded. It matters, not only to us at JamBase but also in a cosmic sense. We try to keep things diverse here and more so all the time. With certainty, you won't like everything, no one will, but we wouldn't include an artist review or feature if we didn't believe they have merit. My goal in writing about Johnny Irion was to expose this community to a great singer-songwriter whose admired by his peers, tied into a great folk legacy AND tours regularly, thus living up to our motto of "Go See Live Music." It might not be Bisco or Phish but it's good music and at a bottom line that's what we're about at JamBase. We dislike any genre straight jacket or unhealthy limitation. That's something we learned from our love of jam artists and have carried into new realms over time. Again, thanks for working with us towards the future of this place.

bristone starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/29/2007 06:01PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i have decent expectations from this guy since i love his album "exploration" with Sarah Lee Guthrie - which i highly recommend if you're a fan of guy-girl harmonies a la whiskeytown, etc... rock on johnny and thanks for coming to charleston - see you at the pour house!