DECEMBER 14, 2017

Album Releases:


by Louis Valentine Johnson

Twenty-One Years

Louis Valentine Johnson
Dos Almas

People respond to personal tragedy in a million different ways. For the prolific American guitarist and composer Louis Valentine Johnson, the death of his son Alexander at the age of 21 several years ago led to Johnson  memorializing his beloved child in music: the three-movement, nearly 27-minute Peace Concerto that dominates this CD release (as well as the short Prelude, “Twenty-One Years,” that kicks off the disc). As Johnson writes in the poignant liner notes, “The Peace Concerto embraces memories as Alex grew from from a baby to a little boy to a young man who then had his own son. These compositions encompass as much as music can. the opus includes our love, his struggles, his life Valiantly Running With Fire, playing The Cape, The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends, Greensleeves, and Tárrega on guitar by the fireplace, plus much more.”

And indeed it is multi-layered work that runs a gamut of emotions and musical textures. Johnson has an unerring feel for melody, and he manages to connect the different musical threads he creates quite naturally. The influence of Spanish and Latin American composers comes through in many places, but there are also American folk strains evident and even nods to the Baroque. The middle movement of the Peace Concerto, “Song of Peace,” is particularly affecting. Johnson’s tremendously detailed notes about the Concerto certainly add to emotional heft of the piece, but I think that even if you didn’t know what inspired the work, it would probably move you. It’s quite a journey.

The concluding Tres Pensamientos Latinos makes for a pleasing conclusion to the disc; all three “thoughts” are infused with rich Spanish/Latin flavors, from soulful balladry to an exciting improv on classic Spanish tropes.

Prelude: Twenty-One Years; The Peace Concerto: Portraits, Song of Peace, The Question; Tres Pensamientos Latinos: Snowfall in El Escorial, Lullaby of Love, Malagueña California!

The album can be previewed and purchased through CDBaby, and heard in its entirety, piecemeal, on YouTube.

~ Blair Jackson, Editor in Chief, Classical Guitar Magazine



Classical blues for a lost son

Louis Valentine Johnson, an Idaho native, composer and founder of the Idaho State University guitar program, has released a CD of guitar music as a tribute to his late son, Alex Johnson, who died at 21 of an accidental opioid overdose. Alex was prescribed pain killers following a car accident. Alex left behind a son. Alex also played folk, blues and classical music. Louis Valentine Johnson’s album is called Twenty-One Years.

Since receiving his Masters of Music from San Francisco State, Johnson has developed formidable skill as a classical guitarist. Blair Jackson, editor of Classical Guitar Magazine, reviewed Johnson’s CD: “Johnson has an unerring feel for melody, and he manages to connect the different musical threads he creates quite naturally.” There are many different “musical threads” in Twenty-One Years.

The section for Alex includes a “Prelude,” followed by “The Peace Concerto,” a three-movement opus containing: “Portraits,” “Song of Peace” and “The Question.” The CD continues with “Tres Pensamientos Latinos,” three original compositions including a new creative interpretation titled, “Malagueña California!”

For “The Question,” Johnson recreates music his son played, combining them to conjure images of a father and deceased son playing ghostly duets. The listener hears a grieving father playing music for the spirit of his son. In eloquent liner notes, Johnson writes, “Here we visit music Alex played on guitar. These works are included so a little boy will know his father’s voice and sound.” It is a strong musical memory piece that is particularly affecting; there is no answer to “The Question.”

In music, grief is often expressed with a strong human voice like Eric Clapton’s poignant, “Tears in Heaven,” written for his dead son. Does a classical guitar have too soft a voice to capture the despair a grieving parent feels for a lost child? Johnson’s impassioned playing proves a classical-styled guitar can evoke emotions when played with precision and fury. Johnson writes concerning his intentions: “Execution is one thing, but composing, interpretation, performance and recording of specific life-event emotions are another.

“Listeners’ perceptions are vast variables … so, effective composing conveys sentiments of beauty and pain to memorialize a moment in time.”

Louis Valentine Johnson has succeeded in musically conveying these heartbreaking sentiments of beauty and pain to memorialize his late son, but grief is still a lingering force. Johnson writes: “I am just now coming to some kind of terms with this after composing, learning and recording the music. … It is a somewhat softer—only slightly softer—pain every day, compared to what it has been for the last seven years or so.”

Twenty-One Years, which includes the “Peace Concerto” and "Three Latin Thoughts," is available as an entire CD or as individual tracks to download on CD Baby, iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, Amazon and 200 other online sources/distributors around the world. Louis V. Johnson can be reached at Dos Almas Studios in Grass Valley, California.

~ Michael Corrigan MA. The Idaho State Journal. January 5, 2018

Michael Corrigan graduated from San Francisco State with an MA in English and creative writing. He is a retired instructor of English and speech communications from Idaho State University. He has written several articles for various outlets, including Atticus Literary magazine online.


Louis Valentine Johnson's composition “The Peace Concerto.”  ( is written for Solo Guitar.  The Concerto has been orchestrated and arranged in additional instrumentations by LVJ and fellow Composers and Colleagues, Cullen Bryant, Richard Altenbach, Philip Rothman and Craig Palmer, for Guitar and Violin, Guitar and Viola, Guitar and Cello, Guitar and Clarinet, Guitar and Piano, Guitar with String Quartet, and Guitar and Symphony Orchestra. 

Louis Valentine Johnson has also arranged “Twelve Moments” from“The Peace Concerto” for use by young guitarists in their application for scholarships for the Alexander L. Johnson and Louis Valentine Johnson Guitar Scholarship to help further their careers.

LVJ has performed as a soloist in the U.S.A., Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, Norway, Denmark, Spain and Canada.  

LVJ’s Master class studies were with Narciso Yepes, San Francisco State University, Christopher Parkening, (, Sun Valley Idaho Center for the Arts and Humanities,(, Abel Carlevaro and Julian Bream at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music,( LVJ also attended the Banff School of Fine Arts in Banff, Alberta, Canada, (, where he studied with the Venezuelan virtuoso, Alirio Diaz. 

LVJ was the first guitarist to graduate from Idaho State University School of Fine Arts Music Department.  He later initiated and founded the study of Classical Guitar as a standard curriculum at this University in Pocatello, Idaho, (  He performs and records with a Jose Oribe “Gran Suprema” guitar, ( and lives in the Sierra NevadaMountains of Northern California.

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