All posts by robcjohnson

Technical writer, musician, vocalist, hobbyist music promoter of all musical genres. Encourages new talent, encourages collaboration and kind comment.

Eamonn Payton – Musician, Vocalist

Musician-vocalist Eamonn Payton brings a breath of fresh air to the music world. He is a dedicated musician who taught himself cello and ukulele, and the holder of a very good voice.

I first met Eamonn during the July 2014 ‘WV’s Finest Talent competition, organized by friend, Doris A. Fields, (aka ‘Lady D’). The event was held at Tamarack with dozens of contestants in two, young age groups. Eamonn placed well in the competition and I was delighted that he and I share the same home county. That day, I introduced myself (as an event volunteer and registrar) to Eamonn and later in the day spoke to his absolutely-supportive, extended family. His family are members of a Celtic band, so music is an inseparable part of his life. Eamonn’s father became the source of instruction in acoustic guitar.

Over the intervening years, Eamonn and friends have provided music and song for Nicholas County 4-H gatherings, including events during its celebratory, summer-camp dinner at Veterans Memorial Park.

He and another musician have also done a gig or two at Maloney’s, a sports bar in Summersville.

If I were pressed to describe Eamonn in one word, it would be ‘gregarious’ as his interests range from music, obviously, to aerospace engineering.

For a sample of his work, I will include a link to my local, community-access television program, “Mountain Muse.”

If your travels include our area, I would encourage you to catch an event where Eamonn is providing live music. You will not be disappointed.

— R. Johnson


Jacob Bailes – Vocalist

Jacob Bailes, vocalist, has a sonorous and soulful voice that has impressed my ears for about two years. To list Bailes as a ‘vocalist’ is only part of his story. A second-year university student, with a ‘non-music’ major, Jacob is a former member of an award-winning high school marching (and show) band. He held first chair in alto saxophone with the band. He continues to help chaperone summer band camps.

The band, The Lumberjack Express, in Richwood, West Virginia, USA, routinely receives ‘Superior’ ratings at high school band-competition events. This Richwood High School band has also routinely traveled to appear in select venues at select events.  There are not many school bands that are annually invited to visit Disney World, Orlando, for an early-Saturday afternoon slot on its Main Street when crowds are the largest. The list of nationally-recognized festival at which the band has performed is extensive and includes Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC, to highlight only two. Sport-venue openers include the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves. Enough said.

This post is not really about Jacob’s musical history, but his initial coversong work.  He sent me a smartphone video of a contemporary pop-song cover in May 2016. I thought then and think now that the cover was quite well done. Long story short, I did a quick video edit, arbitrarily called him “JDan Music” and dropped it on my YouTube channel.

Coldplay Cover – Jacob Bailes

Although the video edit is mine, and amateurish, the video has received a respectable 120 views, as of this writing. All comments have been favorable and have come–unexpectedly on my part–from around the world.

To conclude this post, I will also say that I have hesitated for a long while to post any entry on Jacob Bailes, as I have likely been ‘too close’ to his work to be 100% objective in my review. I say this because Jacob worked with me several months as a student intern. As a small-city elected official, I mercilessly dragged him with me to meetings and events (music and otherwise) around our state. However, the high spot of those frequent road trips, was the chance to hear him sing along, usually at high volume, as I drove, with whatever music was playing on car radio or smartphone subscriber-music lists.

Jacob has indicated an interest in doing more video covers. Check back here every now and then for updates. I promise to limit my however-slightly bias of his work.

— R. Johnson   20 September 2016




Anna Graceman and the Graceman Band

20160716-Graceman-Landon-Anna-Allie-ThePurpleFiddle-Thomas-WV-IMG_3482Thomas, West Virginia, USA –Singer-songwriter Anna Graceman and her siblings-only band made a first visit to West Virginia, for the Saturday, July 16, 2016 performance at The Purple Fiddle.

The Graceman show started promptly at 8:30 PM and included a small number of cover songs, which were given the Graceman touch on piano and overall arrangement. Her original pieces comprised most of the music of the evening.  Readers should note that her total repertoire is prolific and includes about 60 original songs as well as a studio album. Following a one-song encore after a standing ovation, the music ended at 10:10 PM.

Some mention needs to be made of Anna’s skilled siblings. Brother, Landon on percussion, set the tempo for the evening. As a ‘band’ drummer, I was quite impressed with his masterful accompaniment, whether a folk-rock or softer jazz-rock selection.  Meanwhile, sister Allie played guitar and routinely joined Anna on harmony vocals. Although I have seen her use an electric bass, she abandoned her piano in favor of using the bass on two selections.

Alaska-born Anna Graceman has been a favorite musician/vocalist of mine for several years. Her music career started at age nine (in 2009) with the first of several appearances on the Ellen show.  Two years later, she made her headliner status with appearances on America’s Got Talent. In its pre-show sketch of the artist, The Purple Fiddle lauded her national and international reception and spoke of Graceman’s more than 150 million views on YouTube. The Graceman family moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be closer to the music industry.

A little indication of my appreciation of her music may be evidenced by my willingly driving the three hours, one way, from Richwood, to be able to hear the live performance in Thomas. I have listened to and purchased much of Anna Graceman’s work on usual music platforms. Sometimes by ‘force feeding’ I have also shared her premier work among close friends and on my music-promotion pages. Her music is memorable, lyrics and music impeccable. I could create a quick listing of my favorite songs, but I would rather the reader hit her generous YouTube channel, select the ‘Newest Songs’ playlist with 34 entries and get carried away as have I with such titles as:  “High Places” “Treble Heart” “Words’ “IDK” “Living in Denial” and many, many others.

Graceman New Titles

Her website has a bit of everything:  from music samples and music sources, to other merchandise, to upcoming-tour show dates and locations.

Graceman Website

Enjoy what you hear of Anna Graceman’s work. At age 16, she is going to be producing stellar music for a long time. Bravo, Miss!

–R. Johnson

19 July 2016


Simply Jazz & Blues – West Virginia

I have the honor of knowing Doris A. Fields, aka “Lady D” a writer, vocalist and entertainer of the first water.

For years, Lady D has produced an annual, summertime jazz-and blues-music festival in southern West Virginia, USA. Starting in the community of Sandstone, the weekend-long festival has since relocated in recent years to the Word Park venue in downtown Beckley and other nearby venues. If this were a post about an annual event, it would not take long to provide the reader with enough detail to become quite familiar with the festival.

Such is not the case. Lady D has ensured that top-notch jazz and blues music is there, for the taking in all seasons. Driven in part with her ‘every-Sunday-evening’ (in her sixth year of broadcast) radio show on Groovy 94.1, WAXS – FM (with a ‘listen live’ internet feed), she also champions The Raleigh Jazz & Blues Concert Series, including its “On the Road!” offerings as well as the festival. *

An exceptional playwright, Lady D has written and performed a one-woman show (episodically over the last ten years or so) to honor the artistic contributions of the ‘Empress of the Blues’, Bessie Smith. This year, she has already performed the show in Bluefield, West Virginia in early March and is scheduled soon to perform her show at the historic theater in Fayetteville, West Virginia. A friend and I caught her stellar performance last year at The Raleigh Playhouse and Theatre. This go around, Lady D will be joined by Ilene Evans, who does a tribute to Ethel Waters.

Speaking of ‘The Raleigh’ I would be remiss if did not mention the appearance of such notables as Miss Freddye’s Blues Band, Johnny Rawls with Chris Sutton, Dugan Carter with Tim Courts, and The King Bees!

A quick listing of the talent presented at the annual festival last year includes: Miss Jane L. Powell, Dennis McClung Blues Band, Jenny Wilson Trio, Bob Thompson Unit, John Yurick Quartet, Jane Powell Trio, Melissa McKinney, The Carpenter Ants, Hybrid Soul Project, Mojomatic, Stephen Koch, Lady D, Austin “Walkin’ Cane”, Bridgett Kelly Band, Priscilla Price, Zac Harmon, Bare Bones, Gospel Reunion and the Martin Luther King Jr. Male Chorus.

As I mentioned above, in the year-round offerings, several area venues are used. The latest ‘on the road’ location was the Beckley Art Center. On March 19, noted guitarist Vince Lewis [with Bob Brown on bass] and acclaimed vocalist Sharon Clark wowed an intimate audience of enthusiasts for two hours.

I could have loaded this post listing various links to the events and artists mentioned, but that would likely take days to fully explore. Rather than do that, I will drop only the main festival link and the link to Lady D’s exceptional radio show. ‘Tune’ her in every Sunday evening from 7:00-9:00 PM Eastern to hear some great jazz and blues music, and promotion of the festival and related events.

Simply Jazz and Blues:


Groovy 94.1 FM web link:

R. Johnson


* By her gracious invitation, Lady D permitted me to appear, live, on one of her regular broadcast shows, to detail my international promotion of music, of all genres.

Emmalea Deal — Vocalist

March 4, 2015

Vocalist Emmalea Deal is an engaging and skilled performer. Although she is now 14-years-old, she has worked enough live-performances and contests, fairs and festivals, to easily qualify for the title ‘veteran’.

If I were pinned down to describe Emmalea’s usual genre, I would have to reply, “That depends…”  She has recently produced her third CD as a tribute to the icons of country music, called, “Songs of Country Legends” [available on her website:]. OK, maybe she sings country, but not exclusively. In fact, she has a history of popular and alternative as well.

Emmalea’s first CD, a six-track collection of cover songs is called, “Beautiful.”  Her second CD is titled “It Takes a Lot of Heart.”

As a source of excitement for her friends, her fourth CD–sorry, no details available–will have some, or maybe all, original work.

As a quick sampler of Emmalea’s work, it is hard to beat her ReverbNation cover of “Let Me Be Me” at link:

For another sampler–this one of her live-performance presence–a YouTube link gives a great example of her stage work:

All it takes to explore the depth of Emmalea’s considerable skills is a quick trip to her website (created and maintained by her tech-savvy brother, Dustin Deal). She has a presence in social media on Twitter, YouTube, ReverbNation and Facebook Her music may be purchased on usual music outlets. Check her website for details.  Oh, one parting shot on her media platforms. It is important for fans and followers to buy, subscribe, ‘like’ and share her music. Even when just listening, be sure to hit the ‘like’ button.

Her manager, Johnny Cochran, of All Most Heaven Records, is headquartered in Elkins, West Virginia. For bookings, contact Mr. Cochran at 304 704 6380.

I look to see great things from Emmalea Deal. I hope you enjoy her work.

— R. Johnson

Christopher Ryan Sorensen — Songwriter and Vocalist

January 4, 2015

Pop Songwriter and Vocalist:  Christopher Ryan Sorensen

Unlike several of my posts, I know exactly how I discovered the music of Christopher Ryan Sorensen (aka Christopher Ryan on SoundCloud). While I was listening to the work of another vocalist on SoundCloud that I have now followed for three years, the work of Sorensen was next on an automated play list. I suppose my time with pop genre, was noted by the engines on SoundCloud and Sorensen’s number was next up.

Regardless of the exact method of discovery, I was pretty much instantly struck by a couple of things: 1) this vocalist has a world-class voice; and 2) he is writing all of his tracks. Although I am not usually a jaded old guy, I likely should not have been as impressed as I was with Sorensen’s work.  After all, he is a skilled songwriter with an exceptionally fine voice. Face it, the world is not short of artists of that description.

I believe it was the energy of the production of each track that really sunk in with me. Here is a songwriter and vocalist with a passion to say something. I suspect that each composition creates a certain amount of agony on the part of Sorensen as a creator. I am confident that the delivery of every word with the accompanying note is brilliantly calculated for the greatest impact. Certainly not all songwriters expend that much effort in the production of a piece. When I collaborated on a set of pieces with a friend years ago, I was delighted that I could spend my time creating the music, while he hammered through the lyrics.

As a quick sample of the caliber of work that Sorensen has released, I have dropped a link to a great track called simply “Balloon.” That inauspicious title belies the scope of the work. Every time I listen to the track, I discover a new nuance.

I would encourage the reader to download this, and other available tracks on iTunes. Link:

I am absolutely looking forward to new releases in 2015 from Christopher Ryan Sorensen. His work will be well received and I trust that it will make a mark on the world of popular music.

Enjoy the exploration of his work.

— R. Johnson

The Nicholas County Girls Choir

The Nicholas County Girls Choir

Closing the end of its 2014 season, the Nicholas County Girls Choir delighted the audience on Friday evening, December 12, 2014 with its “Christmas Street” performance, in the Auditorium, Nicholas County High School, Summersville, West Virginia, USA.

Program selections were:

♪   Happy Birthday Jesus

♪   The Sleigh

♪  Christmas Street

♪  A Gallery Carol

♪  Sleep Well Thou Lovely Heavenly Babe

♪  Deck the Hall

♪  Gabriel’s Message

♪  Hallelujah Christmas

♪  Holiday Dreamin’

♪  Christmas In About Three Minutes

The second and third selections in the listing above were done by a ‘select troupe’ of vocalists, in costume, as “The Gingersnaps.”  The final selection is a complex medley of 23 holiday carols, delivered in a total of “about three minutes.” There were capable soloists throughout the program. Choir member, Tori Cutright, served as a guest conductor on the fifth selection. Live piano prelude–and accompaniment throughout the program–was beautifully played by several pianists, including the Director.

A debut performance of the ”Christmas Street” program was held as an ‘After-Thanksgiving’ holiday treat on November 29, 2014 at St. Luke’s United-Methodist Church, Craigsville. Audience reaction was especially warm and sustained.

Facebook page for the choir is

Nicholas County Girls Choir is under the direction of musician and vocalist, Mrs. Amy B. Hypes. Her assistant, and choir alto, is Miss Savannah Molly Marie.

Bravo on two, top-notch holiday performances!

— R. Johnson

The Lumberjack Review Show Choir

Richwood, West Virginia, USA

Two major public performances, between September and December 2014, have solidified the overwhelmingly-positive community response to The Lumberjack Review Show Choir.

Decked out in new uniforms for the “Imagination of Broadway” performance on December 11, 2014, the show choir and dancers filled the RHS auditorium stage. Playing to a packed house, the choir combined well-written dialog as introduction to the numbers on the playbill, with well-executed choral vocals. Choir members managed to slide, essentially unnoticed, to the wings to don character costumes for the next set. There were well-done solo and small-group segments, as the full choir joined in song.

Special-effect lighting–timed to the song beat–added to the Broadway theme of the evening.

A top-notch dance and vocal troupe added pizzazz to the already-spectacular production.

Performance numbers included the following:

♪ Give My Regards to Broadway

♪ Tomorrow

♪ One Short Day

♪ Over the Rainbow

♪ Off to See the Wizard

♪ I See the Light

♪ Poor Unfortunate Souls

♪ Do You Wanna Build a Snowman

♪ Let It Go

♪ 42nd Street

♪ You Can’t Stop the Beat

♪ 76 Trombones

♪ Castle On a Cloud

♪ Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

♪ Circle of Life

♪ Footloose

♪ God Bless the U.S.A.

There was boisterous applause throughout the performance; and the show choir received two standing ovations. “God Bless the U.S.A.” brought the crowd to its feet for nearly all the number. The “Fantasmic Finale” engendered several moments of thunderous applause from an audience on its feet, as the choir in rank upon rank, moved to the front of the stage, in turn, to take a well-deserved communal bow.

The earlier, September 7, 2014, performance found the show choir on the stage of the outdoor venue of the Sculpture Garden on East Main Street, in Richwood. The choir provided wonderful choral selections to help commemorate the memory of Mrs. Marian McQuade, founder of National Grandparents Day and Richwood resident of 20 years.

This young choir (in member age and in years of existence) is under the capable direction of Michael Fox, assistant band director for Richwood High School. Choir members come from both Richwood Middle and Richwood High Schools.

The choir fan page is on Facebook at link:

— R. Johnson

Eirik Bodding Gjendemsjø –Norwegian Vocalist

13 September 2014

Eirik Bodding Gjendemsjø (aka Eirik Gjen)

It has been a distinct pleasure for me to get to know the music of Eirik Gjen over the last few years.  I am not usually taken with a ‘listen-and-review’ of a single play of a music video, but I certainly was in the case of Eirik.  When I first created a small YouTube channel for general music promotion, I listened for quite a time to classical-crossover vocalists and one of my favorite musical genres:  Classical choral music.  Although I do not know precisely how YouTube provided Webber’s “Pie Jesu” by Eirik Gjen, in the ‘try this’ column on my channel, that is how I accidentally discovered his work.

I will provide a link, later on, for the single piece that convinced me that this young Norwegian vocalist had exceptional skills.  The video that shows his “Pie Jesu” entry into the competition Norway’s Got Talent, absolutely stunned me.  Here is this kid, in braces and tousled hair, that belts out a rendition that would have brought Webber to tears. Now years later, I still occasionally listen again to the music video and marvel at his work as a teenager. It took me a while to discover that Eirik had indeed spent some time as a chorister, but I knew he must have had a rich history in choral work. This particular version alone has received more than 29,000 views.

I suppose like many teen YouTubers, Eirik recorded covers–alone or with an accompanist or collaborators–in some unusual venues:  school spaces, his bedroom, a sofa in a family room, etc.  Eirik has produced some of the best pop-cover work available anywhere.  Selections that come easily to mind include the premier cover of the Bruno Mars hit, “When I Was Your Man.” — Maroon 5 “Payphone” — and Queen “The Show Must Go On.”  I would like to think that I had a small part in promoting “When I Was Your Man” to the 5,000; then 10,000; and then 20,000+ YouTube plays.  I probably wore out my welcome on Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Facebook in the process, but I felt then and sill do that Eirik’s work needs to be heard by music enthusiasts around the world.

Eirik’s official video “The Greatest” has rightly generated nearly 186,000 YouTube views.  It is among his finest works.  I never knew exactly what happened to one or two other official releases that were quite good, but believe there must have been copyright or management issues that eventually prompted their removal from public access.  Be that as it may, they too were exceptionally well done.  I will gladly provide a link to “The Greatest” as one of his premier pieces.

As with many artists, Eirik has other skills.  His ‘amateur’ photography is well done.  He routinely posts family and friend photos–including his Springer “Kira”–on Instagram.  For several years, Eirik routinely posted on Twitter and Facebook, but his media presence has diminished greatly.

Before I forget, I need to mention that this remarkable young man had performed for First Lady Michelle Obama during her state visit to Norway, before he was 15 years old.

I remain flattered whenever I receive the occasional message from Eirik Gjen and continue to encourage him to create more great vocal music.  Eirik has recently entered university at Romerike Folkehøgskole.  I wish every success at the start of his academic experience.

— R. Johnson

— p.s. The braces with which Eirik suffered as a young teen worked quite well.  He has one of the best smiles in the business.