Friday, January 25, 2008

Reviews:: Johnathan Rice Further North

Truth be told, when I got Johnathan Rice's record in the mail I had to ask my wife if this was the guy she liked (which it wasn't; her favorite Rice is Damien, where as mine is Jim). Sometimes being unbiased is a good thing as before I gave this disc a listen or two, I had no idea Rice's first record was largely considered to be a John Mayer knock off or that he was dating the impossibly attractive Jenny Lewis.

If there are two thing hipsters hate, it's people sounding like someone in the mainstream and someone dating one of the few attractive indie woman they lust after. Needless to say, I'm sure people are ready to get their hate on young Mr. Rice. Am I one of them? Like Hertz would say, not exactly.

Rice is a young man, but this record shows him making some positive strides. I'm not sure I hear much of the Mayer comparisons (granted I don't ever listen to JM, but still), but Rice's music does float by in a familiar breeze. At 24, with more exposure, talented peers and a girlfriend with a heavy affliction for country ditties with unique lyrics, these influences have helped his song writing. Rice is settling nicely into a more country/folk mold and the results are for the most part, enjoyable.

Rice and Lewis co-wrote tracks, but I think Rice is determined to find his own sound. Sadly, I still think he is still one album away from getting there. He does remarkably well on the slower, dusty numbers and I think as time keeps on ticking, Rice will be known for his country folk, not his rollicking roots or rock n' roll efforts. It's hard to ignore some of the standouts on this album; the lovely duet with Lewis (End of the Affair), the gentle strums of It Is Best To Keep It All Inside but it's also hard to ignore the fact a lot of the tracks are about Rice's submission. Holding in his true feelings, letting her call the shots. These aren't the common sentiments you hear from singer songwriters.

I think Rice's backing band (Death Valley) is essential to his growth. When they click, the band adds just the right punch to his acoustic work (like the harmonies and banjo work on the Middle of the Road, the percussion on We're All Stuck Out In The Desert or the nice pedal steel on It Is Best To Keep It All Inside). There are a couple of stumbles, mostly when Rice opts for the heavy, rock tracks like THC. It's not that these songs are bad, it's more they don’t fit into the flow of the record.

Rice seems to be a grounded young guy, understanding the ups and downs of the music industry, and how quickly an artist goes from someone to another no one. While a cynic might listen to this record and laugh about how the middle of the road is where Rice will end up, I think this record shows him taking the first few rocky steps of a long climb.

WM:: End of the Affair
QT:: End of the Affair


Posted at 1:03 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous did sayeth:

great singer
I got his songs here


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