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Heat, Heart and Hard Rock: Meet The Johnnys

A review of 'Rock,' the latest album by The Johnnys

Any album that opens with motorcycle sound effects in its first track promises to take you on a fast ride along a wild highway of songs. The first track of Rock, titled "Motorcycle Mama," is the songwriter’s version of a painted portrait. It is a personal tribute to a woman dedicated to feeling the wind blow through her hair. Marianne Faithfull painted this image for us in 1979 with a more tragic story within "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan." Veronica Johnny places a musical badge of honor on her heroine, proclaiming her to be “too tough to die.” Set to a fast paced syncopated rhythm, The Johnnys bring us onto the highway and manifest the wind through the uplifting lyrics and high energy. A flattering song for a friend, inspired by a promise.

The Johnnys can effectively slow it down too without losing any of their rock edge. "I'm Electric," an I’ve-Come-Full-Circle-and-Like-Who-I-Am track, encompasses all the classic, even traditional metal-rock elements made famous in the hair-band era of the early 80’s. This specific sound would fail if the musicians were anything less than a well-seasoned, mature rock band firmly rooted in those traditional rock elements. The Johnnys pull it off and pull you along for the ride.

The Johnnys - Rock album cover

This group has seen a rotation of different band members over the years, but the focus and commitment of husband-and-wife team Dave and Veronica Johnny has enabled them to cultivate each new player and to inspire in them the energy and spirit that drives The Johnnys’ songs. Rock is the band’s third album, and with each they've matured in sound and content -- a testament to the couple's great collaborative work ethic in both their professional and personal lives. That said, the track “I’m Loving Your Heat” is about the closest thing to a love ballad you’ll find on this record. Love is expressed in a variety of ways, so for a “rocker” to say “I Love Your Heat” (which is really only one letter away from Heart), it’s as good as a gold ring. This song is sincerity mixed with a sexy edge.

On Rock, we hear less screaming and more emotion in Veronica’s vocals. Her pleasing voice leads the songs, in both sound and meaning. Being of Cree/Dene descent, Veronica is inspired, as many Indigenous artists and musicians are, by environmental injustices especially those brought to light through the Idle No More movement. This inspiration finds it way into the song “On the Wrong Damn Side of the Law," a hard and fast battle cry pointing an unapologetic accusatory finger at government and corporate greedy practices. “Guilty of lies” Veronica sings.

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The title track, "Rock," is an ancestral anthem making you reach for your Bic lighter. It is an invitation to bang your head -- and to use your head in personal practices that affect the land. Isolate the lyrics on this album and you might think these are 60s hippie messages resurfacing, but The Johnnys give the hard rock metal fan exactly what they crave, and then some. Turn it up! This is nothing like a lot of noise pollution disguised as metal that’s already out there. This is metal with a hea(r)t and soul.

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