Also: Thievery Corporation steals the show, and Waylon Jennings’ son is on-target
‘In Between Dreams’, Brushfire/Universal
Woody Allen once likened being mellow to a process of ripening, then rotting. Listening to terminally chilled surfer/folkie Jack Johnson’s latest album feels like a similar fate, at least initially.
Johnson blissfully faces the music – all of it – with a grin, a sandy voice, and a Catalina-bound sound. His sparsely arranged tunes sometimes lean toward soul-jazz (‘Situation’) or percolating funk (‘Staple It Together’). But there’s scarce variation to Johnson’s doggone-diddly cheery demeanor.
However, Johnson’s deceptive simplicity, subtlety and understatement become shockingly infectious upon (many) repeat listens. ‘Dreams are made of real things’, he sings on ‘Better Together’. That attitude guides his cozy romanticism through shuffles (‘Banana Pancakes’) and sambas (‘Belle’).
Oh, and he’s also releasing this latest CD in environmentally-friendly packaging and converting his fleet of tour buses to run on green bio-diesel fuel, making his band’s movements “carboneutral”.
Reviewed by A.D. Amorosi
‘The Cosmic Game’, ESL
Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, the Washingtonbased duo known as Thievery Corporation, are master collaborators: The guest vocalists they enlist define the character of each album, whether it’s Bebel Gilberto on 2000’s sultry The Mirror Conspiracy, the Farsi-singing Loulou on 2002’s multi-culti The Richest Man in Babylon, or the elder-statesmen alternative rockers who join the Jamaican, African and Indian singers for the psychedelic Cosmic Game.
Anchored in the dub, trip-hop, and down-tempo club grooves that make Thievery Corporation the American Massive Attack, Cosmic Game pulses with a swirling, trippy tension that’s more pent-up than chilled-out.
‘Well, let’s start by making it clear who is the enemy here’, the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne softly croons on ‘Marching the Hate Machine (Into the Sun)’, establishing the political paranoia that courses through ‘Revolution Solution’ (with Perry Farrell), ‘The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter’ (with David Byrne), and other simmering sonic journeys.
Reviewed by Steve Klinge
‘Put the O Back in Country’, Universal South
Shooter Jennings comes out swinging on his debut – and we’re not talking about Western swing. As the band leans into the chip-kicking honky-tonk of the title song, he complains that ‘there ain’t no soul on the radio’ and throws out a challenge: ‘Are you ready for the country? Are you ready for me?’
It’s not hard to figure out where he got the attitude: he’s the son of Waylon Jennings. That’s a giant legacy to live up to, and if the 25-year-old doesn’t quite yet come across as the saviour of country music, or if he doesn’t possess a voice with the deep authority of his father’s, he is certainly off to an impressive start as he stakes out his own territory.
‘Busted in Baylor County’, ‘Steady at the Wheel’, and ‘Daddy’s Farm’ are swaggering blasts of Southern rock, but Jennings shows there’s real heart behind the bravado with more reflective numbers, such as ‘Lonesome Blues’, ‘Sweet Savannah’ and ‘The Letter’.
Reviewed by Nick Cristiano