Even if his name isn’t instantly familiar to you, Will Johnson has probably been a part of at least one musical project you’re a fan of. After moving to Denton, Texas, in the early ’90s for college, Johnson formed Centro-matic, which has released numerous records since 1996. In 2002, Johnson, his Centro-matic bandmates and guest musicians started issuing more introspective records under the South San Gabriel moniker; the same year, Johnson released his first solo LP. Since, Johnson has played drums with Monsters Of Folk, toured with the Undertow Orchestra (featuring David Bazan, Mark Eitzel and Vic Chesnutt) and started work on a Woody Guthrie project (with Jay Farrar, Jim James and Anders Parker) in the vein of the Wilco/Billy Bragg Mermaid Avenue albums. Johnson’s latest release is the self-titled debut by Molina And Johnson (on Secretly Canadian), his duo with Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co.). As if he wasn’t busy enough already, the Austin-based Johnson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.
Johnson: Lynn Williams’ “Don’t Be Surprise” was written by Clarence Reid, and I think it’s one of the finest and saddest songs in all of human creation. This song was released on Miami’s Suncut Records in 1969 and also appears on Numero Records‘ Eccentric Soul: The Outskirts Of Deep City. (Numero lists it as “Don’t Be Surprised.”) As far as I’ve been able to find, Williams only released a few singles (Reid’s “Baby Is It Possible” being one of ’em) and did a good bit of backup session work. Her limited musical offerings to this world are equal parts mystery and majesty to me. I continue to believe “Don’t Be Surprise” is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard.