Lewis III

Category: Dallas Genre: Folk, Singer/Songwriter


2021 brings new expectations and a new release from Dallas’s State Fair Records: Home Again, Home Again by Trey Johnson in a new duo called Lewis III. Trey partnered with pianist Rich Martin (Deathray Davies, Shibboleth) to record the songs—songs developed over a decade but “written” in a few days—and to celebrate the end of the year 2020.

Hailing for North Texas, Trey impressed North Texas critics, music fans, and fellow musicians the 2000’s with his award-winning band SORTA. Trey’s songs from that era, artfully infused with equal parts joy, irony and melancholia, found their way into popular TV shows, Rolling Stone, and even a Liz Phair playlist. Trey has continued writing and occasionally performing, and he’s also helped artists develop through his work in teaching, production, and more recently with the founding of label/collective State Fair Records (Vandoliers, Joshua Ray Walker)

The simple arrangements of piano and voice allow the songs on Home Again, Home Again to unfold in a way that complements their simplicity. Layered choral harmonies contrasted with easy, loose vocal doubling drape the impeccable piano arrangements; the raw feeling is confident, crafted, immediate and intimate. The effect is like an apple: something sweet and simple but not always what you expect.

Home Again, Home Again’s opening track “Won’t Be Long”, was inspired by a Abebe Zelelewa mixed media on wood. The piece shows an exhausted medical worker slumped in a chair with head in hands. “This piece of art hangs in my home, I see it every day. It affects me deeply. Though there is clearly pain in the piece of art, and there is a tragedy depicted here about 2020 that is unfinished, I will always believe the best is yet to come.”

“Jokes on Me” is a Dylanesque romp with a cautionary tone. Johnson is a husband and father and there are always subtle, and not so subtle, references to his family, and most often his children.

“American Soil” rounding out the first half of the record and is the centerpiece of the collection. “This song started out very gloomy. This descending-by-step chord figure is one I start with all the time. For some reason it gets the melody flowing for me. In this particular case, it lead me somewhere I had no idea I was heading. The chorus lyric, Heartache is buried in American soil / It’s too much to carry. It swallowed us whole / We just need somebody who can lighten the load  really put a lump in my throat and still does every time I hear it.”

In an accompanying visual, Johnson features these three songs repurposed as a musical suite behind the 1935 animated production “The Song of the Birds” Fleischer Studios. In it a young boy is learning to shoot a gun at the same time that a robin is trying to teach her babies to fly. Being a typical boy, he proceeds to shoot one of the baby birds. The robins hold a funeral which saddens the boy enough to make him break his gun. Rain starts to fall and wakens the baby bird who is not dead after all.

 “I’m a cartoon lover. I grew up on cartoons and I poke around the Public Domain Site watching WW II recruitment cartoons and old Betty Boop’s.
When I came across this cartoon, for some reason it just made sense. I laid the first three tracks of the EP in and they seemed to me to be made from the same cloth”