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It’s been a long time between solo albums for Johnny Irion, more than a decade in fact since Ex Tempore won critical acclaim upon its 2007 release. Thankfully, the drought is over, and Irion’s new solo record Driving Friend will be available on May 18th, 2018. The album was produced by Tim Bluhm and backed by Blackwing, the artisan pencil makers with a diverse musical heritage. By teaming up with Blackwing, a portion of every album sold will benefit the Blackwing Foundation, which funds music and arts programs in public schools.
The record, which includes members of Dawes, Wilco and the Mother Hips, ranges across a wide expanse of roots genres, from blues and gospel to folk and country. Everything about it feels authentically crafted, a carving out of raw, lived American experience. Whether Irion is singing about Santa Barbara, Pittsfield or the Rapture, his sharp wit, telling description and brief character studies take us to a musical hometown of his own, quite a feat for a rocker whose last record with his band US Elevator was hailed by Rolling Stone as being as “lovingly handcrafted as the jeans on the back of After The Gold Rush.”