Squawk Radio

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Liz Gives You Music with a Meaning AND a Good Beat

I know I’ve already done a Sunday Music Blog for John Wesley Harding, but that was for a collection of traditional folk tunes arranged by someone else and performed by him, so it wasn’t really a blog about John Wesley Harding so much as it was the CD itself (“Trad Arr Jones” for those who weren’t reading Squawk Radio then). And because I am a HUGE fan of the guy, I can’t possibly overlook him in one of my blogs. So here he is again, this time for himself and his music.

Although my husband likes John Wesley Harding, too, he thinks JWH tries to fit too many lyrics into his songs, and that it can make for some awkwardness. But this is one of the things I like best about him. He really does use a lot of words, but as a novelist, I can only admire that. Even more so when JWH says as much as I do on a much, much smaller canvas. (In fact, he also published a novel recently, MISFORTUNE, under his real name, Wesley Stace.) He’s professed to being a big fan of Charles Dickens, another writer who used a lot of words, and that’s evident in both the subject matter and lyrics of his songs. There is darkness and light both in any collection, and not a little whimsy.

I’ve never encountered a JWH album that I haven’t liked immensely, but what I especially like about “Adam’s Apple” is that he seems not to take himself so seriously on this CD. The music is, for the most part, upbeat, fun, and even funny, without being frivolous and meaningless. Don’t get me wrong--there’s disturbing stuff, too, as evidenced by “Sussex Ghost Story.” And there’s still a ton of social commentary on many of the selections, such as “Protest, Protest, Protest” and “Sluts” (and even the fanciful “Monkey and His Cat”). But hey, it’s got a great beat and it’s easy to dance to. Who doesn’t want to have a good time while pondering the state of the global community? Not to mention JWH has, without question, the sexiest voice I’ve ever heard, deep and velvety and downright erotic at times.

I just love music that makes a statement without being A) depressing as hell, B) self-important, or C) obvious. For all my love of alternative/rock (especially that which is angry and socially significant), I can’t resist a good pop CD when it comes along. “Adam’s Apple” encompasses all the things I love best in an album. The lyrics are intelligent, evocative and moving, the music is danceable and distinctive in a way that only the artist himself can manage, the guy singing makes me feel warm all over. And, most telling of all, the minute the CD is over, I let the player go right back to track one and start all over again.
Elizabeth Bevarly, 12:54 PM