Take one part sun-hot, zesty lemon and one part cool sugary sweetness and you’ve got a tall drink that goes down easy on a summer evening. Singer-songwriters Andi Zack and Ken Johnson hit that same perfect balance between tangy and sweet with their performance at Music in the Park on Thursday night. And an audience with a thirst for great country pop drank it all up til the glass was empty.
Oliver girl Andi moved to Nashville over a decade ago to pursue her talent as a song-writer. She met hubby Ken in 2005 through a songwriting connection and “it was love at first sight”. Their continuing affection was apparent onstage as they sang back-up on each other’s compositions, smiling and laughing, joking with the audience. Together they created a wonderfully warm vibe that spread through the audience.
Strumming her ukelele, Andi’s sweet voice and summery lyrics brought instant smiles. “How can you not write happy songs on the ukelele?” she mused, before singing her hit “Lemonade Maker”. Like a lemon zester, Ken’s raspy-edged voice and soulful blues licks provided a welcome tangy complement.
The couple is well-respected in the country music business. Humble about their talents, each has written music for for famous names, including Vince Gill, his daughter Jenny Gill, Wayne Newton, as well as music for film soundtracks. Singing their own compositions in their own style in front of an audience made for a special evening indeed.
The audience was treated to some behind-the-scenes stories of how lyrics are written. Ken shared a delightful tale about asking his daughter to finish eating her supper. “Dad, did you hear what you just said?” she asked, then promptly parroted back to her dad his own words: “There’s still a little chicken left on that bone.” When Ken looked confused she said “Daddy, that’s a country song!” Now a Top 40 hit released by Craig Morgan, “Still a Little Chicken Left on That Bone” encourages listeners who feel “past their prime” to realize “it ain’t over til you say it is”.
Another hit, popularized by country singer Josh Thompson, was prompted by a few words from a waiter when the songwriting couple were out to dinner with friends. While chatting with their server, the man commented on his minimum wage job, saying “Well, you gotta put beer on the table.” Joking with the audience, Ken said “Andi put a big ol’ bruise on my arm jabbing me with her elbow that night.” Andi joined in the storytelling: “I wanted to make sure he heard what the waiter said.” “Yeah, I heard, I heard,” nodded Ken. “Beer on the Table.” A day later, those few off-hand words were a song.
After two sets made up entirely of their original compositions, Andi and Ken were reluctant to stop and the audience reluctant to let them go. So much talent, so many songs, and too little time. “We wanna come back soon,” said Andi. Yes, please. We still have a pitcherful of that lemonade to drink.
Photo Credit: Penelope Johnson