Folk-rock passion fuels Johnnyswim set _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez, a k a Johnnyswim, on the Samsung Galaxy Stage.

Johnnyswim, aka the Nashville-based husband and wife team of Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano-Ramirez, made their New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival debut Friday on the Samsung Galaxy Stage.

Despite Johnnyswim’s residency in the nation’s country music capital, Ramirez and Sudano-Ramirez are far from a country act. They’re a folk-pop duo.

The folk aspect comes largely from Ramirez’s acoustic guitar. He veered between gentle finger-picking and vigorously strummed rhythm playing through the show.

The pop side of Johnnyswim derives from the duo’s melodic, easy to consume songwriting. Some songs, such as love song “You and I,” already structured as pop anthems, are even further amplified by the soaring passion both singers inject into their performances.

Just when it sounded as if Sudano-Ramirez would outdo her husband in aching emotion — as she did for “Trouble” — he unleashed his heartache, as he did for the inspired-by-anger “Pay Dearly.”

Ramirez and Sudano-Ramirez’s vocals blended often and easily. She’d sing solo, he’d sing solo. He harmonized with her and vice versa.

In the higher range his tenor voice, Sudano-Ramirez sang notes that may well be higher than any notes his wife hit with her lovely, dark alto voice.

If Johnnyswim’s Jazz Fest debut lacked anything, it was a set that built momentum. The songs are certainly there to build upon.