Review: Jack Foley
JOHNATHAN Rice may only be 21, but he has the whole world at
his feet. This exceptionally talented singer-songwriter is one
of the most sought after performers of his generation.
He is supporting REM in Hyde Park (at the personal request of
Peter Buck) and has landed a role in the upcoming Johnny Cash
biopic, Walk The Line.
His debut album, Trouble Is Real, has already gone down
a storm in America and is tailor-made for anyone currently getting
their musical kicks from Keane, Coldplay, Ryan Adams or Jeff BUckley
and Nick Drake for that matter.
It's an extremely accomplished, highly intelligent collection
of 16 tracks that really do impress from the outset.
Opening with the string-laden Short Song for Strings,
the album really gets going with Mid November, the first
track to introduce us to Rice's husky vocals.
It's a slow-builder in the classic sense which gradually eases
the listener into the instrumentation at his disposal and washes
over you like a calm breaking wave on a hot summer's day.
There is a melancholy tinge to several of the tracks, yet the
album is not downbeat and frequently delivers some inspiring melodies
wrapped up in classic guitar riffs.
Kiss Me Goodbye is a great example of this; it's melodies
boosted by some mandolin that recalls REM's Losing My Religion,
before breaking into an epic, sweeping chorus.
So Sweet is all about classic American folk-rock and
even contains a pop feel, courtesy of its 'la, la'-laden chorus.
While the tender Break So Easy demonstrates the sensitive
nature of Rice's songwriting, emerging as a fragile but reflective
piece that showcases the artist at his most personal.
Likewise, City on Fire, which contains obvious nods
to the events of September 11, 2001 (given that Rice had set out
for New York City with 1,000 copies of his songs on September
It's an aching, but painfully beautiful song that somehow makes
Rice's husky tones seem all the more haunting.
The easy-going side of the album is best exemplified in breezy
tracks such as Lady Memphis, which Rice describes himself
as 'mellow'. With its nice acoustic riffs, there is a very definite
touch of the Jack
Johnsons about it, which only serves to heighten the enjoyment.
The same goes for Behind The Frontlines, another of
those wimsical tracks that Rice seems to specialise in.
And he even injects some lively, yet understated, beats on Leave
The Light On - another of those sun-drenched tracks that
totally succeed in making you feel good about yourself.
The list is endless, especially since there are 16 tracks to
But given the high quality of each, it's fair to say that Johnathan
Rice's Trouble Is Real rates as one of the best debut
albums of the moment and will certainly feature among the albums
of the year.
Make sure you buy it.
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