Currently based in Portland, Johnson got a professional start in music in Chicago -- he actually grew up in Springfield, Ill., not far from St. Louis -- teaching at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and dabbling in songwriting and rocking out in various configurations. With the 2001 debut "Echolocation" and more confident Sub Pop album "Mouthfuls," Johnson established himself as a songwriter with a gift for Dylan-esque surrealism and brightly shining melodies and flexible, mostly acoustic-based grooves.
This year, Fruit Bats released "Tripper," an album that explores new sounds and textures, especially synths, giving Johnson's quizzical images and allusive (and elusive) lines a new, cool, slightly dark, pop feel.
For this Live at KDHX session, Johnson eases back to just acoustic guitar and voice (with some sweet harmony vocals on "Picture of a Bird"), giving a more vulnerable take on two songs from "Tripper" and a revision of "The Ruminant Band" tune "Singing Joy to the World."
All photos by Kelsey McClure. See more at my Flickr stream.