John Southworth (which is undoubtedly his stage moniker taken from the saint of that name) has music in his blood. His father, Peter Shelley, was a major figure in the glam scene of 1970s England, and was also the A&R man who brought the world King Crimson. Southworth's musical personality is very far from the progressive rock and glam rock of his father -- he performs a unique brand of pop that transcends both time and space, bringing together influences as wide-ranging as Lou Reed, Burt Bacharach, and Bertolt Brecht. His first two albums, 1998's Mars, Pennsylvania and the 1999 follow-up Sedona, Arizona, contain unique and catchy songs that are a musical travelogue through the history of modern pop.
The transplanted Englishman calls Canada home, where he has performed on a regular basis, having also made his mark on such now defunct legendary American venues as CBGB and the Knitting Factory, and also at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where he performed before the opening of the Lou Reed/Robert Wilson pop opera Time Rocker. Southworth stayed busy into the new millennium, regularly releasing albums including Banff Springs Transylvania (2000), Yosemite (2006), Pillowmaker (2007), and Mama Tevatron (2009). In 2011, Southworth released Human Cry, a deeply honest and bittersweet turn toward spacious arrangements and plaintive lyrics.
Shortly thereafter in the same year, Southworth offered the curious cassette-only album Spiritual War. Informed by a period of obsession with peasantry and morality, the songs are all similar thematically and all the sounds were recorded directly to a cassette master. Easterween (with Andrew Downing) and Failed Jingles for Bank of America & Other U.S. Corporations arrived in 2012, followed by the ambitious double LP Niagara in 2014, the latter of which delivered a glowing pastiche of sunset-driven '70s soft rock and heady, jazz-tinged chamber pop with a distinct Canadian twist. In 2016, Southworth issued his tenth album, the bright, poppy, and cinematic Small Town Water Tower. ~ Linda Woods