Image © Iconfluence Music 2007
(26 January 2007) Indie artist Johanna Beekman performs an eclectic collection of songs about longing, loving, and learning on her sophomoric album, If I Could Fly (Iconfluence Music (USA) 701, 2007). It has been five years since her debut album, Stolen Grace. She continues to produce original, rhythmic tracks that have captivating melodies and heartfelt lyrics. Johanna creates a diverse set of songs from a multitude of genres including alternative folk-rock, indie pop, gospel, reggae, funk, piano jazz, a capella, and electronica. Although these fourteen tracks are distinct in their sound, the album feels interconnected.
This talented artist began writing songs early in life, and created her first at age nine. Her vision continued and at age 20 she released her first album of original music. During this time period, she studied songwriting with Chris Williamson and Tret Fure, musical improvisation with jazz singer Rhiannon and rhythm-master Keith Terry, performed in musical theatre, rock and world-beat bands, gospel and women’s community choirs, improvisational acting and singing troupes, social action theatre groups, films (including Gus Van Sant’s Sundance Award-winning “Elephant”), and countless festivals, political rallies, clubs, coffee houses, colleges, and universities. Her varied musical influences include Ani Difranco, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Carol King, Grace Slick, Tracy Chapman, Bette Midler, the Indigo Girls, the Beatles, and Motown.
Johanna has wonderful soaring vocals throughout this imaginative collection. There is a richness of tone that is highlighted with her honest and creative style. On this CD Johanna's soaring voice is backed by a talented crew of musicians, including Halie Loren, Neal Gladstone, Audrey Perkins, John Shipe and other singers and players who've made their marks in rock, folk, jazz, classical, world beat, electronic, and a cappella music.
In 2005 Johanna completed her BS in Women’s Studies with a focus on diversity education and a minor in theater with a focus on social action and improvisation. This background and her free spirited musical interpretations lay the foundation for the diverse content of the album.
She opens with album with the gentle "Summer Lover." Her lyrics combined with the flowing melody draws an intimate connection to the story she is telling. The smooth tones continue with the love song, "The Only One." The mood changes in "Over You" with upbeat yet relaxed, soulful baritone sax refrains. Delicate piano segues into the tender and emotive "If I Could Fly." Johanna's poignant vocals are highlighted in this beautiful composition.
"Free To Decide (Breathe)" is accentuated by hypnotic, rhythmic beats of body percussion. She is accompanied by the a cappella group Absolute, and it was recorded live, singing in a circle, with no overdubs or editing. Stunning. To add diversity, Johanna brings the reggae sound to this album with "Already Gone." This song has been performed previously as a country rock song. "Shift In Time" was inspired by the rhythmic drones of the washer and dryer that inspired the funky beats and harmonies of this song.
The touching "Escalation" reveals a tender sensitivity in this story of attraction. Flowing cello and violin heighten the intensity of the song. "The Other Side of Time" is a tribute to the families of miners in West Virginia and to all of those that have lost loved ones. Johanna's mournful tones, supported by piano, cello and violin, set the mood. The haunting "Beginning Again" was written about driving home on the freeway at midnight in the fog. The mood was well preserved in this piece.
"Smoke In The Snow" is based on a song she wrote at age 16. A reprise and remix of "Shift In Time" follows with its dreamy electronic element. Her brother, DJ Beeker, created the electronics for this song. "Amazing Grace" is sung a capella, and maintains the emotional power of this classic song. Johanna described feeling the song's meaning on a deep and personal level. This particular recording was done in just one unplanned take in the studio. She concludes this tremendous album with the touching rendition of "Strong."
Johanna's album is available through CD Baby. If I Could Fly is a wonderful assortment of musical styles that showcase the diverse talents of Johanna Beekman. She draws in the listener with her velvety tones and powerful performances. She has a wonderful vocal range with emotive lyrics that tug at the heartstrings. It gets better and better each time it's played.--Audrey Elliot in New York