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No arguing, years end great for Johnnyswim

Sinclair Cambridge, Cambridge, Mass., December 20, 2014

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Don't bother arguing with Abner Ramirez and his wife, Amanda Sudano about what a great year the two enjoyed in 2014. After all, they enjoyed two releases this year, an appearance on NPR, touring throughout the country and at the last show for the duo this year, Sudano sported a decidedly noticeable bulge around the middle.

And with the second release being a holiday EP and tis season, it was time for a holiday tour for the duo, who mix folk, blues, rootsy sounds, a slight bit of country, rock and even disco.

Johnnyswim played their secular songs with a chunk of holiday favorites. While some of the holiday songs were more an exercise in good cheer (for example, a feel good audience singalong including 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Deck the Halls") than making an artistic statement, they did that, too.

They underscored that they were capable of more than replicating tried and true on the lead off, an extended version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" where they traded vocals, something that they would to throughout the night. They also turned in a good reading of Frank Loesser's "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

Johnnyswim was quite comfortable in their musical skin, no matter who was taking lead vocals or providing harmonies. Ramirez and Sudano both easily assume the lead role.

And their own material was quite strong, although that played second fiddle to the holiday songs. "You And I" and "Diamonds" remained standouts during their 2-set, nearly 95-minute show.

Unlike their appearance earlier this year at the same, this one featured a sturdy backing band of bass, electric guitar and drums. Ramirez holds down acoustic guitar and sometimes took over the songs with his playing.

Ramirez came off a tad too fawning towards the audience, mentioning about three times how there was no place he'd rather be than here tonight. He was not the first utter that and won't be the last, but once would have been more than enough.

To his credit, Ramirez also has a good sense of humor and an affable style.

Sudano has a bit more vibrancy to her voice with a bit of a catch. Johnnyswim continues to recall a less rootsy The Civil Wars, but without that duo around any more, Johnnyswim will do just fine.

Big changes lie ahead for Sudano and Ramirez with a son, their first child, due in February and no gigs until May. But they sure ended their action-packed, career advancing year with the considerable joy that tends to go with the season.