“The prog-folk songwriter Jonah Michea Judy recently relocated to Arizona from North Carolina and brings with him his soothing voice and sharp-guitar playing on the heels of a newly released double album, Night, the Different Painting/Blood on Snow.
Judy delivers his soft vocals floated over sinewy acoustic guitar riffs and he has drawn comparisons to Elliott Smith and even-with some of his more brooding tracks-TOOL. Judy's songs are plaintive but not depressing or boring. He toys with catharsis and hope while taking it all on with certain intensity. Songs such as "Selu" Begin with his subtle-yet-mesmerizing guitar work before he laments on love with ponderous and wandering lyrics delivered with a quiver. But if anyone is not convinced of Judy's talents, check him out on YouTube riding a unicycle while playing Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." It's not everyone who can do this.
"What I like about having a studio that’s listed in the phone book in my hometown is the “Sam Phillips fantasy”:
Elvis is going to walk in the door one day to record a song for his mamma, and then you’re off on an adventure.
Jonah Michea Judy is much spookier and dramatic than Elvis was, more dynamically extreme, and unlike the Big El, Jonah writes his own very accomplished songs and generally plays by himself.
But he does rock ‘n’ roll, and he writes great songs that are all his own (although sometimes I hear a bit of Kurt Cobain in his voice?). A lot of folks who call up the studio out of the blue have the idea that they can do one take and we run off a mix and we’re done—it’s never really like that, as I’m sure you know … except it was with Jonah Michea Judy.
He showed up, sat down, did one take. It was great. I asked for another, and he obliged. It was great, too; but we used the first, which was better. And then just started using the first takes. He came for two hours at a time, two to three times, and had a record done. And not only did the insistence of his urgency leap out of the speakers, but he was precisely nailing really cool guitar parts every time. And the lyrics were amazing.
One day he showed up and cut a song where he sang passionately, then would stop abruptly and say politely “thank you, thank you very much,” and then go back to full throttle! I asked him what that was about, thinking something was going wrong, and he told me that he’d dreamed the song and awakened to write it down, complete. And in the dream, he was busking in a pedestrian tunnel and passersby would put money in his case and he’d stop to thank them then resume where’d left off—so he included this element of the dream in the song, accurate to a fault. He’s on his own path—it’s worth following down that road."
"On first listen to this evocative singer, I was immediately transported to the early days of my college life when hordes of us would travel into downtown Philadelphia to see the then both alive and great Elliott Smith. Like Smith, Judy plays a type of song that plunges into the deep ravines and chasms of the soul.
With musicians like these, it is kind of like staring into the sun; there is a deep part of you so very tempted to look but when you do, you know it hurts. And the passion that Judy sings with equates to such an experience. Judy plays a solitary acoustic guitar, that could at times sound as soft as his breathy verses or as raw and passionate as his vocally explosive choruses. Imagine a mixture of previously mentioned Elliott Smith, with a little Trent Reznor circa Broken era and Dashboard Confessional. It's good stuff. So take a listen."
The Portland Phoenix:
The prog-folk songwriter Jonah Michea Judy just moved to these parts from North Carolina, which places his new double album, Night, The Different Painting/Blood on Snow, into our constellation of local contemporary folk works.
It’s an interesting addition with not much nearby parallel. The two-disc CD tears through 19 adventurous, emotionally charged snapshots, with Judy’s quavering, whisper-sung vocals hovering like a more hopeful Elliott Smith over alternatingly plaintive and muscular guitar work. All these tracks are acoustic and percussionless, yet the Tool influence is oddly apparent, particularly in tracks like “Climbs,” where Judy lets his sinewy guitar lines wriggle their way out of conventional time signatures.
Judy’s songs are sad but not mopey, dark but not depressive, and confessional enough to convince anyone that he’s clearly reckoning with some serious business of the heart. We find them tastefully honest and poetic — and are grateful that they’re not the least bit funky. Each contains a little catharsis, and while the intensity might demand a lot from some listeners, they also contain a fair amount of inspiration and reward. He’s new here, so be on the lookout for live shows, and we imagine this’ll be in the Bull Moose circuit soon enough. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’re only a quick search away from a YouTube video of him playing Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” while riding a unicycle.
What's Up Music:
"JMJ kicks it into high gear with the 17 song epic Milk Sink. The record is once again just JMJ and his big voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar that JMJ tears into with passionately played rhythms in which he literally hammers the guitar, which is always a positive. JMJ also delivered the goods vocally sounding at times like a cross between David Cassidy and the dude from Nickelback. Some great songs are definitely present on this record like the excellent “Decompose,” with it’s tasty little guitar hook and haunting delivery. The production quality of JMJ’s stuff is stellar as he comes through perfectly . Very well done, crisp and clean. This is evident on my favorite song on the record, the title track “Milk Sink.” A dreamy tune which has JMJ in a spirited performance that is captured so well that you feel like the music is being played live in the room. ...Pick up his Milk Sink. It’s really good work."
The innocuous title of this album alone was enough to pique my interest. In the generally cutthroat music industry, shock is always in and bland is always….well, bland. I felt that what I had encountered was either an artist with courage or a musician with little marketing sense. Had the subtle but evocative artwork not elevated my curiosity further, I might not have bothered to find out which. The word “courage” barely begins to describe Mr. Judy. Armed with a single acoustic guitar and his one-of-a-kind voice, he embarks on a 17-track journey of emotive, snarling poetry. With titles like “Onion Poultice” and “Ms. Cook and the Fastening Infants,” much of his lyrics defy description, just as his music defies genre. One part Dylan, one part Back and one part Henry Rollins, Jonah Michea Judy seems to be not only fearless, but maniacally devoted to his art. If you like your music chock full of snappy hooks, tried-and-true stories about breakups or fancy production tricks, give this one a pass – I think Nickelback just came out with a new album. For those who like a little experimentation, lyrics that are 100 percent poetry and zero percent schlock and a bare-bones-style production sensibility, you might want to give this one a listen.
What's Up Music:
"Usually people with three names are either serial killers or singer-songwriters. In the case of three first named Jonah Michea Judy we can definitely conclude he is a musician as he brings it home nicely on his 4 song Taste Escape EP. Just made up of Judy’s voice and guitar, the songs really capture a certain passion that makes them extremely believable while remaining kind of easy and listenable. My favorite song was “Snow White Men Wait,” where JMJ’s raspy singing made me a little goose-bumpy... His delivery and tone were quite impressive. I highly recommend picking up Taste Escape and seeing JMJ live when you can because he is simply pretty darn good."
"During a recent stop at the Courtyard Gallery—a cozy downtown venue that hosts weekly open mics that are podcast to more than 100,000 subscribers around the world—that diamond in the rough was Horse Shoe-based singer/songwriter Jonah Michea Judy. It was a cold, late fall evening, and Judy’s performance drew me in like a warm fire. Seemingly experienced beyond his years, Judy’s singing voice alternately burned with the subtle, whispering urgency of Elliott Smith and the overt, in-your-face aggression of Kurt Cobain"
"There’s something in this business of music about finding your own voice. This cat here has found his at a rather young age."
Life in Contxt:
"The acoustic guitar is quite an instrument. An instrument in the most literal sense. A means by which something is achieved, value determined. The level of expression is matched only by the artist wielding it. It draws a rather fine line however. Not faint nor delicate, but fine. One cannot hide insecurities behinds its naked sound. They must be prepared to lay themselves bare if using it by itself. Solo guitarists are easily written off these days, for good reason. Few musicians can captivate an audience with their instrument alone. This takes talent, true admirable talent. One of the few musicians who I know to have this talent is friend and musician, Jonah Michea Judy.
Recently I had a new, soon-to-be-released album sent to me by him. I've been a fan of his music for as long as I've known him and I was eager to dig into his new offerings. ... This will be his third studio release (after 2007’s Milk Sink, and the 2009 follow up EP Taste Escape,) titled Night, the Different Painting.
The first song, "Lights Won't Quit" immediately hits me with a haunting nostalgia. The plucking notes below his strained voice sounds like it comes from a movie that I should have seen but never did. It's slow and languid and yet possesses a pleading energy that urges the song forward.
"Under the Well" poses a shift with a startling introduction from Judy's deep baritone. This is a song that gets darker with each listen. I feel like I am the man under the well as I watch a shadowy figure far above singing this ballad whilst shoveling me with dirt. The darkness doesn't end there. On one of the latter tracks, "Swine", Judy sings, "The pigs I’ve known are good enough to eat their own." With his tongue firmly in his cheek Judy then continues by singing the chord structure of the song, "C, E, A. C, E, G." It's between the suspicion that there is more to this and the unease you feel from Judy's whistling in the middle of the song, you find something that you can't put your finger on, something that raises the hair on the back of your neck...
What Jonah Michea Judy has given us in Night, the Different Painting (DISC 1 of 2) is his most fully realized and well-rounded album yet. What he has accomplished is proof that he is ready for a larger audience. His solid songwriting and deft handling of varying acoustic and vocal dynamics makes him very interesting to listen to and should earn a permanent place on your iPod."