Big Picnic (label)
03 February 2017 (released)
28 January 2017
There are many bands and duos that have featured men and women providing vocals that duel with each other to pleasing effect. In recent times the likes of Lady Antebellum have drained the Fleetwood Mac well, with the UK's The Shires using the same template to create some cracking country-pop. Johnnyswim are like a more soulful and rocky Civil Wars; and unlike that tempestuous duo they are a genuine couple and thus there's a more harmonious feel to their sound.
The second album from Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano Ramirez opens with the delicious The Edge-like licks of Hummingbird, as the vocalists alternate verses to sing of being enticed by poison and nectar and trying to "get the taste of you off my lips". It's a powerful and exciting opening, leading to the less immediate silky bluesy feel of should-be single Summertime Romance.
The pair met in Nashville in 2005, before moving to LA for the release of 2014's debut full-length album Diamonds, and that country feel can be heard on the likes of Villains and Lonely Night in Georgia, which features Vince Gill. But the move to the West Coast has given their sound a different sheen, so that even when a song (Drunks) opens with a staple country line like "I wanna write a song the drunks all sing and the sober sing along" it avoids turning into a cliche. Instead it moves close to OneRepublic territory.
At times Sudano's vocal reminds you of Adele, but with more soul, and that's beautifully displayed on the terrific cover of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game. What the album lacks perhaps is a bit of edge; everything feels a little safe and warm. Although their sound has certainly moved on from the debut Diamonds, a little more of the adventure heard on Hummingbird and less of the standard ballads like Touching Heaven and Make It Better would have been welcome.