About the artist: Described as “an estoric genius with a penchant for intricate acoustic masterpieces”, Michael-John is a masterful guitarist whose music draws on Celtic and Eastern folk, blues, roots, and alternative styles. Combining traditional and not-so-traditional songs with his own original compositions which reach right into the listener and take a firm hold on the soul.”
CD review by Tony Smith
Michael-John Azzopardi produced this self-titled album.
Indeed, he wrote most of the 11 tracks and ‘recorded, mixed, mastered, produced, pressed and printed’ the entire CD.
Two tracks are recordings of ‘soundbytes’ in the session bar at the national folk festival and two are traditional, while Azzopardi set a poem to his own music and wrote the rest.
Azzopardi (mja) acknowledges the crickets who appeared courtesy of themselves, but he carries the vocals and plays guitar, mandolin, mandorla, blues harp and wooden pipe.
The CD and sleeve feature his original art!
This man clearly has a sense of humour as well as an independent spirit and great abilities.
The traditional tracks arranged by mja are the Scottish song ‘Twa Corbies’ and the Irish song ‘The Little Drummer’ and he set the lyrics of the English poem ‘Lord Randal’ to his own tune.
While these songs might have been covered many times before, mja brings a personal touch to them by the way in which he overlays his own vocal harmonies.
The echoing technique and his light touch on the guitar give these songs a uniquely ethereal feel.
The mandorla is sitar-like and suggestive of some sixties performers such as George Harrison, Dylan and Donovan.
‘Beast’ tells in a new way some of the stories we carry with us from childhood.
We are ‘ageing children ringing the rose’.
‘Bells of St Andrews’ is an outstanding song.
After a long instrumental introduction, it begins by setting an old man ‘in yesternews/ silently sleeping the day away’ and finishes as he ‘silently passes away’.
It is sad but inevitable that we fail to make connections with so many people we see as mere shadows or backdrops to our lives.
‘Peter’ was born in a house ‘you would hardly call home’ and seems surprised by what he sees when he looks at his palm.
‘Here is the life I’ve been given and here is the one I had planned’.
‘Noodle #1’ and ‘Dancing Moon’ are instrumentals which highlight both mja’s composing skills and his mastery of plucked instruments.
The harmonics suggest classical technique, some strums suggest flamenco.
‘Meet Me’ demonstrates that simple lyrics can convey deep meanings when they are arranged skilfully.
The fact that Azzopardi calls himself ‘mja’ in lower case suggests he is not out to see his name in the headlines.
Mja is a dedicated self-taught guitarist who shares his obvious delight in his original music.
It was a struggle for him to acquire his first guitar and to learn about music and his chosen instrument.
His determination and perseverance paid off for him and for us.
The listener never feels that mja is just going through the motions or that his guitar is a mere prop for his songs.
Mja is a true artist absorbed in his medium(s).
Voice and guitar are equal partners in his music and he always has something to express, which makes him always worth hearing.