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Johnathan Rice - Trouble Is Real


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 10, 2001).

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 choose from.

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.

Read our exclusive interview with Johnathan Rice

Johnathan Rice: Get to know some more...

 

 

Track listing:
1. Short Song for Strings
2. Mid November
3. Kiss Me Goodbye
4. So Sweet
5. Break So Easy
6. Lady Memphis
7. Behind the Frontlines
8. My Mother's Son
9. Leave the Light On
10. City on Fire
11. Put Me in Your Holy War
12. Salvation Day
13. Stay at Home
14. Acrobat
15. Hickory Wind (Outro)
16. I Wouldn't Miss It for the World

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