Minnesota to New Mexico- by Chad Johnson
Released Feb 2023
Album review written by Joslyn Danielson Jan 2023
Come Feb 2023, “From Minnesota To New Mexico” will become the 7th full album released by the prolific Midwest country-rock band, Chad Johnson and the Minnesota Transplants (MN-T’s for short). The 4-piece group is based out of Northfield, but brings in influences from around the world. The other three members are Andy Jaynes (drums) Kai Catudio (bass), and Jeenti Dutta (lead guitar). Chad is the only MN native in the band, with Transplants hailing from Colorado, Hawaii, and India respectively. They come together to create music that is a fresh taste of Americana, drawing on folk influences from their diverse backgrounds.
The new album seems to be about a wandering man who is finding his roots in love and family. The lyrics include classic folk narratives about the simple things in life, as well as finding the joy and importance in them. Reminding the listener that no matter how far you travel, your core identity never leaves and that foundation makes you who you are. It is feel-good Americana music for the back road adventures and family bonfires. It’s songs about making memories with those you love, filled with nostalgia and positive inspiration for living life to the fullest… Songs to sing along to with your windows down.
The musicality has a twangy, country-rock sound with a full band intensity. They use both electric and acoustic instruments over the course of the album. The main genre inspiration is americana/country, and blues/rock for the heavier songs. The driving beats and guitar solos are reminiscent of classic rock from the 70’s at times. Artists like Elton John, The Eagles, or Neil Young may have influence in this album, utilizing slower tempos yet maintaining intensity in the emotional vocals.
In the country rock style, most of the songs consist of four-chord progressions, made interesting by the bluesy guitar riffs and instrumental punctuations. The twangy guitar takes the lead on the melody for the majority of the time, backed up by clever bass lines and punctuating keyboard chords. There are occasional harmonies but it’s mostly focused on the lead vocal melodies. Chad’s voice is rich and textile, with layers of rasp at times, yet he maintains clear tones and excellent vocal control. His accent has a slight twang, giving him a country boy sound. A few songs have some impressive guitar/banjo/mandolin, alluding to the bluegrass scene that has long been prevalent in the more rural MN towns.
This album is the story of a small town boy with a free spirit. There’s a lot of hometown pride about the Midwest small-town lifestyle, but they aren’t songs about the difficulties of such a life. The overarching themes are to get out of your comfort zone, see the world, and explore while you can… all the while remembering who you are, and most importantly who the people are that made you who you are today. Romantic and melancholic, with a longing for family and connection, the songs are full of metaphors comparing travel and love. Both are a journey without a destination and the goal is enjoying the adventure purely for the adventure itself.
By far my favorite song musically is “Found My Heart At Home”. It is led by a mesmerizing guitar riff that repeats throughout the verses. Dutta keeps the ear intrigued with skilled plucking and hammering of the strings, adding intentional dissonance, suspended notes, and quick runs at unexpected times. It’s a sad song lyrically, but the musicality is still hopeful and serene.
I also enjoyed the second track (“We Call It Family”) for the light hearted lyrics about traveling the country in an RV and embracing the chaos that a nomadic lifestyle brings. However the album is not without conflict and emotional tones, as is displayed in the blues/rock track, “The Darker Side Of Me”. In this song, they touch on topics such as mental health and living with anxiety, set to a gritty blues/rock chord progression.
“From Minnesota To New Mexico” has the vibe of an album written as a diary, or perhaps as a love letter. It is deeply emotional yet upbeat, making it a great listen for 2023.