Between 1979 and 1983, Merseyside's Dean Johnson was a prolific figure in the cassette culture scene. He released over 30 albums and became a favourite of the tape-collectors’ fanzines.

A recent article in Record Collector looked back fondly on the ‘cassette pets’ era and featured Johnson in the Top 20 most sought-after tapes. It was a timely reminder for Dean, who still produces and distributes his music from home.

When the fad died out, he graduated to proper studio recordings, and later embraced the age of the compact disc. A further 16 albums followed, the pinnacle of which was ‘Loser Friendly’, a fortuitous pairing with erstwhile OMD drummer Mal Holmes.

As well as performing on the album Holmes issued it on his pioneering internet label Fin Music, on a minuscule budget. Loser Friendly garnered reams of positive reviews; most appreciated the defiantly lo-fi approach, where charm and spontaneity made up for a lack of production values.

If that epoch-defining album was delivered on a shoestring, then ‘Trailer Trax’ practically staggers barefoot. Like art imitating life, it finds the artist in seriously reduced circumstances, following an extreme bout of what Johnson refers to as ‘singer/songwriter syndrome’, and temporally indisposed from his domestic abode.

What Dean called home during this period, was a derelict caravan on the edge of a Shropshire canal. The enforced solitude and emotional upheaval inspired a slew of lovelorn meditations on his newly-acquired solitary existence.

Recorded on a hand-held Sony voice recorder in single takes, with ‘Degrees Of Happiness’ and ‘Back In The Day’, it surprisingly produced some of his most upbeat material for years, whilst ‘Swallows’ and ‘Complicated’ reflect on the fallout from the domestic drama. There is even a classic from the LA Troubadour Club school in Not The Ones’.

Now happily reinstated in the family dome, the album also reunites Dean with Mal Holmes, who undertook post-production duties. It’s released on his reactivated Fin Music label.

Download Trailer Trax