Stuart Ross Johnson: A Musical Journey in the Upper Valley
Stuart Ross Johnson has made the Upper Valley his musical home. Since moving to Lebanon less than 2 years ago, SRJ has written over a dozen songs, found himself 5 band mates, and put out a well-received album. Not bad for a guy who initially struggled to find his "scene" in the area.
"I went to a punk rock show at Main Street Museum and found a whole community that was really into and supportive of original music," Stuart told me the other day as he prepares for his show at the Skinny Pancake in Hanover this Friday. From that night on, Stuart's ambition to write, record and play live music has been matched only by the eagerness of his bandmates to play with him.
The Temp Agency, as his band is called, consists of Jared Oren, Andy Wyatt, Danielle Conerty, Mike Conerty and Warren Smith, and the gang's inception really highlights the interconnectedness of the Upper Valley. While working at an after-school program in White River Junction, Stuart walked right on up to Danielle Conerty, a band teacher at the program, and before you knew it, her and her husband, Mike, were jamming with Stuart and Jared. Jared and Warren had joined the band through spousal connections (Stuart's wife works at Dartmouth, an institution that seems loaded with amazing musicians), and with Andy Wyatt on bass, the 6-piece was born.
If getting 6 people to get together a play a gig every once in a while wasn't impressive enough, Stuart told me the band gathers to rehearse for 2 hours once a week, despite everyone holding down full-time jobs otherwise. With this sort of work ethic, it's easy to see why Stuart Ross and the Temp Agency have a 10-song album and nearly 3 hours worth of live material after roughly only a year of playing together.
And all that material is really, really, good. Moving to New Hampshire from the Charlotte, NC suburbs, the beauty of our Valley was immediately awe-inspiring to Johnson. SRJ's album is called Wandering in the Wild, and includes songs like "New England Roads" and "In the Quiet," so you can tell where this dude is finding his inspiration.
In addition to the classic guitar, drums and bass, the record also boasts a trumpet, trombone, ukelele, and both violin and viola. And all these instruments are expertly arranged. With the backbone of Stuart's lyrics and melodies, the rest of the band sounds remarkably tight. Check out "Spiders" for the standout of an album that recently got some great praise from Seven Days and County Tracks (a fantastic new music blog in its own right).