"First Things First" by John Connearn


"First Things First" by John Connearn

Review

John Connearn will be a name already well known to the aficionados of the local music scene & as the new decade dawns, will become better known to the wider music loving community.

By far his highest profile has been his membership of the Ellipsis, one of the highest rated bands from Coventry & Warwickshire: seven years of building highly rated reputations for creating & performing beautifully crafted material, with John on lead guitar & vocals.

Sadly the band have been exploring their individual interests & potentials (totally validly & to great effect) to the point where communal activity has become difficult & so they are no longer able to continue as a band: a sad decision but one made with total integrity. Please do look back on articles about them in "Hot Music Live". I can assure you that there will be many more reviews of their individual work to come based on the snippets I am aware of & I am really excited by what I have heard.

In recent months, eagle eyed readers will have spotted John's names in other contexts: most recently I named him as the producer of Free Galaxy's latest single & of course his work with such uber talented artists as Joe Dolman & Hannah Woof.

He has quietly & unobtrusively been sharing videos of work in progress on social media & I'm delighted that he has reached the point where he is ready to release the first formal single, namely "First Things First" on 3rd January.

Anyone who has observed his work will know that John is a master of the subtle: utterly serving the songs he is playing on, whether with his band or the solo artists I just mentioned. This is precisely what I admire & respect & you will have probably have loved some or all of the pieces you've heard him on, but without perhaps always spotting the delicacy of what he is doing (or just as importantly not doing) nor I'm afraid always realising the name of the person whose artistry you were enjoying. This is the irony of course of such an admirable approach & I should be pleased if his solo career raises his profile to the heights it deserves....

"First Things First" embodies exactly what I would expect from John: tastefulness, craftsmanship & above all imagination. If you have preconceptions of what John's "playing style" is from his previous work then abandon them. This is pure John and showcases both his virtuosity and crucially his restraint: knowing when to play & when not so that you can hear every note clearly even in the most mindbending runs & sequences. I wish I was a bit better versed in the genre of what I suppose is a jazz rock fusion track, but then I don't like making comparisons especially if I think, as I do here, that we have genuine  originality. My personal feel is that much as I appreciate virtuosity of this level, I do get turned off by showboating & over long solos & "First Things First" features neither. Like I said: it's tasteful.

What was an ear opener though was the sheer range of instruments he plays so very well: so impressed was I by the dynamic & imaginative drumming that I assumed it was a specialist drummer, whose name I enquired about. In fact John plays all instruments, wrote & produced it so the only other person involved was Pete Maher who mastered it. I hope he gets to play his new material live, but clearly he'll need to delegate some of the parts to a band.....

The track however is certainly not some sort of showcase for virtuosity alone: some sort of vanity project for an ego & I certainly would not want you to read into any of my admiration for his skills as displayed here anything of the sort. It is accessible and memorable & possibly danceable (I don't have the skills to test that theory but my limbs twitched readily to it) and might even open ears to a type of music which only occasionally intersects with the mainstream..

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