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Northampton, Massachusetts, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

Northampton, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Rock Pop




"Brooklyn’s The Big Takeover on The Black Sky Sequined"

Two years after their debut, Northampton, MA trio, Colorway, hone their sound with a solid, no-frills sophomore release.

The Black Sky Sequined attacks with a hook-laden power-pop punch that pervades through all ten songs. A classic rock sensibility also marks the album, allowing sophisticated songcraft and excellent execution to come to the forefront. With very few exceptions, the recording consists solely of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter F. Alex Johnson (Drunk Stuntmen, The Young at Heart Chorus), bassist Dave Hayes and drummer JJ O’Connell with minimal overdubs, giving an intimate, live feel to the overall production. As the tracks progress, Johnson’s guitar mastery blossoms, his guitar solos hinting at prog and Frank Zappa. It’s a rock album for people who like smart, memorable music with tastefully adept musicianship.

Whether Colorway become indie rock sensations or remain Northampton’s best-kept secret, they’ll continue to create strong music because that’s who they are. Hopefully, it doesn’t take another two years for the next one.

~Chuck Foster - The Big Takeover

"Boston's The Noise Reviews The Black Sky Sequined"

Opener “Gen Exit” is classic ’70s rock with elements of BTO, Deep Purple, and other arena-rock stalwarts. The ’70s-centric approach sets the stage for much of what is to follow. “Come Back July” has the casual feel of Wreckless Eric, but with a similar arena rock superstructure. “I Don’t Want to Go Home” reminds me a bit of the hippified excursions of Steve Miller, with a bit of Beatles tucked in. “The Cycle” offers a bit of a change-up, with harmony vocals and a new-agey chiming guitar as intro and a melancholic guitar line which is an intriguing bit of rock craftsmanship. The excellent, lively, “Everybody Wants Me to Love You” has a rhythm reminiscent of XTC’s “Crowded Room,” which devolves into a chugging rock song replete with clangorous guitar runs and a slap-happy hook in the refrain. “Telephone” is a jaunty number, with an impressively catchy rhythm line and horn section, and with extended guitar runs stretched out to epic length good enough to encourage nearly every budding young guitarist to go and do likewise.

That Northampton-based guitarist and songwriter F. Alex Johnson, with bassist Dave Hayes and drummer J.J. O’Connell, manage to create as full a sound as they do as a trio, and to bring a kind of rugged enthusiasm to their approach, is a mark in their favor. (Francis DiMenno) - The Noise

"Skope Magazine Reviews The Black Sky Sequined"

Lou Reed never believed rock music, the great populist art form of our age, was condemned to disposability. He devoted significant time in the second half of his career to writing works of extraordinary depth like New York, Magic and Loss, and Songs for Drella with the hopes these albums combined the thematic weight of a literary work with the visceral punch of rock instrumentation. Opinions vary wildly about the merit of such an exercise or his ultimate success. Colorway, without question, aspires to the same ideal on their album The Black Sky Sequined. They couple wiry, lean musical textures with sharply observed lyrics in an aural equivalent of Hemingway’s “iceberg theory” that if writers know “… enough of what [they are] writing about [they] may omit things that [they know] and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.” From the failed and faded dreamers in songs like “Gen Exit” to the anguished narrators and clenched-fist survivors of songs like “Explain” and “I Don’t Want to Go Home”, Colorway and lyricist F. Alex Johnson know more than they are showing and The Black Sky Sequined is a better experience for it.

“Gen Exit” opens the album and sets the sonic paradigm. Johnson’s guitar work has extraordinary suggestiveness. His terse phrasing has such a clean, decisive touch that each line seems bristling with barely contained energy. The rhythm section of Dave Hayes on bass and J.J. O’Connell on drums is wiry and unobtrusive, but their penchant for creating space in the composition distinguishes their playing and Johnson fills these spaces with attentive vocals. There’s not a great deal of emotion in Johnson’s vocal beyond an appealing, darkly sardonic edge. That’s the point. This is an observer’s voice offering listeners a precise character study in miniature and those moments of implied judgment in his vocal add immeasurably to the performance.

“Come Back July” invokes nostalgia for lost time in its first two verses with almost Proustian recall of detail. The opening simile sets the tone for simple, yet breathtakingly exact, imagery like tearing up a calendar, shaking the sand from your shoes, and driving to the water. Johnson’s technique of marrying the specific with the universal is on full display here with the song’s later turn towards generalities and the band’s minimalist backing approximates the rousing energies of the season with confidence and tastefulness. The mid-tempo blues burn of “Explain” will immediately grab attention with Johnson’s authoritative tightrope walk on the fret board. It’s easy to fall into overstatement on a song like this, but his playing maintains a delicate balancebetween pathos and guitar-hero histrionics.

Colorway take an unexpected turn with the largely instrumental “The Cycle”. Rather than offering up more of the stripped-down guitar attack of earlier songs, Colorway elongates melodies and stretches out instrumentally without ever losing the economy of approach characterizing the album as a whole. “Everybody Wants Me to Love You” percolates with a caffeinated bounce and shows off more humor than perhaps any other track on the album. The Black Sky Sequined concludes with the layered, yet subtly humorous, “Telephone”. It’s perhaps not the most original of subjects, looking at the alienating effects of technology on our basic human need to connect, but Johnson’s lyric and another convincing vocal colors familiar ground with unexpected flair.

It isn’t a perfect outing. Some songs are a bit longer than needed and will upset, for some, the aesthetic heard elsewhere on the album. Colorway’s The Black Sky Sequined excels when everything is pared back to the bone – at its best, the clarity and immediacy are overwhelming (Jason Hillenburg) Score: 4/5 Stars - Skope Magazine

"Flying Colors: Northampton Trio Colorway Paints a Winning Pop-Rock Portrait"

Review by Hunter Styles, Valley Advocate

Where on the spectrum does Colorway play? I might say these musicians are best at capturing the light, bright tones of late morning or mid-afternoon, given their talent for writing sunny and engaging pop songs.

But band leader F. Alex Johnson, one of the founders of the alt-country group Drunk Stuntmen, has a nocturnal cast about him. He is a veteran of the local roadhouse rock scene, lit by neon and bathed in shadow. From his thick and gritty guitar work, it shows.

The songs on Colorway’s second full-length album, The Black Sky Sequined, strike a sublime balance between light and dark, sweet and dour. Across 10 tracks — some good; some great — the band leans radio-friendly, and nothing here reinvents the wheel. But if you’re a fan of no-nonsense, head-boppin’ rock albums, you’ll wear a nice groove into this one.

Through his un-showy singing style and introspective lyrics, Johnson mostly comes off as a softie — his other regular gig is playing guitar with Northampton’s Young@Heart senior chorus — and here he is wishing on good deeds and second chances. “Maybe all the pressure/ didn’t make a gem/ Anyone can sparkle/ We can live again,” he sings on “Gen Exit,” the catchy opening track. “Take me, I am ready/ I can feel it kicking in.”

That song — full of driving drums, crisp electric guitar riffs, and rich moments of harmony — sets the tone for a streamlined and cleanly-produced record. With nice work from Dave Hayes on bass and JJ O’Connell on drums, these tunes are full of texture, but sleekly composed.

That’s no big surprise, since the self-produced album — which was recorded by Mark Alan Miller at Sonelab in Easthampton — was mastered in Portland, Maine by veteran sound engineer Bob Ludwig, who won several Grammy awards in February, including two for Beck’s Morning Phase, which won album of the year.

At one point, Johnson says, Ludwig exclaimed that the fifth track had “a great solo … there’s lots of great solos on this record.” Ludwig is right. And the song he was referring to, called “Me and My Baby,” is one of the album’s standouts, leaping back and forth between crunchy blues-rock verses and dreamy power-chord refrains, like a Black Keys song swept up by Fountains of Wayne.

“Maybe you’ll see me tomorrow/ and we can try it again,” Johnson sings. “Maybe you’ll see me tomorrow/ and we can try to be friends.”

That’s Colorway’s message in a nutshell. When Johnson sings about life’s trials, he has mud on his boots but stars in his eyes. He has been around the block a few times. But whenever he circles back to familiar turf, he’s prepared to see it in a new light. - Valley Advocate

"Singapore's Power-of-Pop Gives The Black Sky Sequined a rave review"

Review by Kevin Matthews originally published 8/3 at Power Of Pop.

Now this is what I call rock ’n’ roll! Colorway’s sophomore effort finds the trio once again burning their way through 10 tracks of 100% pure shots of classic pop-rock songwriting brilliance.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist F. Alex Johnson and the steady rhythm section of Dave Hayes (Bass/Vocals) & J.J. O’Connell (Drums/Percussion/Vocals) have delivered the perfect antidote to those who believe that good old fashioned pop-rock music is somehow irrelevant in 2015.

If you think 5 Seconds of Summer is guitar rock, then you might want to keep sucking your pacifier – this is music for adults – where a penchant for smart lyrics & sophisticated songwriting are married with an honest application of rock instrumentation.

From the opening driving “Gen Exit” to the closing epic “Telephone”, it’s all tight as a drum without any flab whatsoever. No mean feat.

Highly recommended! - Kevin Mathews


Colorway (2013)

The Black Sky Sequined (2015)



Colorway is:

Vocals/Guitars: F Alex Johnson
Bass/Vocals: Matt Clegg
Drums/Percussion/Vocals: Riley Godleski

Colorway is a trio from Northampton, Mass. who play original roots/pop/rock songs infused with inventive, energetic and melodic lead guitar. 

Bandleader F Alex Johnson (Drunk Stuntmen/Young at Heart Chorus) formed the group in 2012 as a way to give life to his new batch of compositions: a culmination of over two decades of writing, recording and performing. It was also a way to exorcise some demons. Johnson had taken a break from composing after two family deaths and a cessation of a long and storied love affair with drugs and alcohol in 2008.

Colorway’s 2013 self-titled debut album featured the song “Live With Me” which was voted the #3 song of 2013 by the listeners of AAA station 93.9 WRSI in Northampton, MA, and set the band up for its first year of heavy live shows. 

The band’s second album, The Black Sky Sequined  (mastered by Bob Ludwig) was called “One of the finest rock albums of 2015” by Ric Albano (Modern Rock Review) and Diffuser’s Chuck Armstrong called the Colorway’s single, “Come Back July” “. . . impossibly catchy” when they premiered the video. The song made it into the top ten of WRSI's listener's poll as one of the top songs of 2015. The band hit the road that spring and toured up and down the east coast in support of the album and continue to tour heavily year round. 

Colorway has recently opened sold out shows for Foreigner, The Yardbirds, Ian Hunter, Delta Deep (feat. members of Def Leppard and Stone Temple Pilots) and Television’s Richard Lloyd who called Colorway "amazing and inspiring" when the two played together at The Outer Space in Hamden, Connecticut in October 2016.

The band was included in the 2016 Green River Festival alongside artists such as Peter Wolf, Los Lobos, NRBQ, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Dawes and more. Colorway’s live shows are engaging, high-energy, cathartic and always a celebration of the power of music to heal, connect and inspire.

Though the easiest way to describe Colorway’s music is pop-rock, don’t be fooled. The band can jam, and are convincing audiences far and wide that it’s possible to extend the boundaries of a four minute song and still have it stuck in your head all day. 

Colorway is currently working on material for a third album Release date TBA.

Band Members