Johnnyswim at the Buckhead
5 Nov 2016: Buckhead Theater Atlanta, Georgia
One of the highlights on the newly released Johnnyswim album, Georgica Pond, is the lovely song about solitude and yearning, “Lonely Night in Georgia”. The Nashville-based duo was joined by country legend Vince Gill who helped co-write and sing on the track.
Gill was nowhere to be found at Johnnyswim’s Atlanta, Georgia gig, but it didn’t really matter. The sold out show at the newly refurbished Buckhead Theater was packed with fans who knew every word to the song even though the album it appears on is less than a month old. Johnnyswim were having whatever is the opposite of a lonely night in the Peach State. On a balmy Southern night in November, Johnnyswim was in good company.
Perhaps that’s why it didn’t seem like hyperbole or shtick when singer-songwriters Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez gushed that there was nowhere on the planet they’d rather be that night than in Atlanta, a town they consider important for breaking the act back in 2014 when they put out their first full-length record Diamonds. The husband and wife time are consummate performers. No doubt they could act like they loved each other and the crowd, but the sincerity came off as real and genuine. Their songs of life and love were sweetened by hope and a steady beat—provided by a four-piece backing band (drums, bass, keyboards and guitar). Heck, Johnnyswim even brought out their baby, Joaquin Emmanuel Ramirez, and made him part of the act for a couple of songs.
That said, I hope the baby was wearing earplugs because the music was LOUD. The singers and instrumentalists used the acoustics of the room to create overtones and play with the reverberations they initially created. This worked to great effect on tunes such as “Home”, “Take the World” and “You and I”. Their anthemic sound rocked the place and made the quiet sounds come off as even more than quiet—as something beautifully hushed.
That was especially true of the title cut from Georgica Pond. Amanda introduced the song as about a place her mother had bought on Shelter Island. The plan was to build a house there and turn it into a place for family gatherings. Her mother died before anything was constructed, but Amanda, Abner (and now Joaquin) still visit the wild area and dream. The location still imparts a magic on those who go there. The song itself veers from sweet to somber without ever losing a sense of place. While Georgica Pond is a material setting, the music evokes a spiritual charm.
Abner and Amanda joked with the crowd and told stories about themselves and their music between the numbers. Abner told a tale about rough men who fight each other over old grudges, but then settle down to sing and drink together because they live in the same area and recognize each other’s shared existence as neighbors. Abner did not preach for a candidate just a few days before the Presidential elections, but instead said “America needs a drinking song” and launched into “Drunks”.
Amanda told of the work Johnnyswim does on behalf for Food for the Hungry (FH), an international organization that takes a holistic approach to solving the problems of poverty and improving communities. She mentioned that besides the usual merch table one finds at concerts, there was a FH table that had some Johnnyswim rewards for those who contributed to the organization.
As the night was ending, Johnnyswim mentioned that they played more than 300 gigs a year and were scheduled to perform at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. They finished the show with a rousing version of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again”. One understood that while Atlanta might be special for that one November night, Johnnyswim’s work was far from over.