Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jack Johnson RAWKS!

I once read a review which described Ani DiFranco’s voice as rocking the house one minute and rocking the cradle the next, which is a damn near perfect description.  That’s not exactly what has kept me from making the leap from liking Jack Johnson to loving Jack Johnson, but it’s a start.

I do cushy, okay.  I happen to like David Gray, who has been called my generation’s Enya.  But listening to David Gray croon over melodic soundscapes, you know he’s not going anywhere with it.  Each album will sound like every other, and that’s fine because you love butterscotch pudding, and when you’re in the mood for butterscotch pudding it’s the most delicious thing you’ve ever put in your mouth.

Jack Johnson frustrates me because I hear glimpses of the musician he would like to be.  

He kept coming up on my Pandora Cake radio station, but he never gave me pause until the end of "Flake."  His voice aches into the higher registers while his guitar starts to walk and talk.

Please, please, please don’t pass me
Please, please, please don’t pass me
Please, please, please don’t pass me by

Whoa, who is that?  Former surfer Jack Johnson?  Let me check him out. 

You can have his gorgeous voice, mellow vibes, and upbeat guitar riffs playing in the background for hours before you hear a minute which demands attention.

Of course, Leonard Cohen is a favorite of mine, and no one in his audience points stiff fingers in the air and squeals “Cohen rawks!”  If you’re not listening to the lyrics, he can easily fade into background noise.  But his music is fully formed in a way Johnson’s isn’t.  I say the musician Johnson wants to be rather than the musician I want to hear not only because of those moments he lets loose, but because he tours with G. Love.

Why else would a tight musician with such a rich, pitch perfect baritone tour with a whiny-voiced slopbucket blues musician like G. Love?  I hear legions of fans shouting weed! but I don’t buy it.  If you could put Jack Johnson’s voice over G. Love’s funk, or inject G. Love’s wild puppy playing into Johnson’s veins, you’d have a music legend.

As it is, Jack Johnson has his fans, G. Love has his, and some folks who dig music will still make faces when their names come up.  

Becky took me to see Jack Johnson in concert.  He seldom plays outside of Hawaii unless it’s with a festival, so it was a rare treat.  For her, who loves Jack Johnson.  For me, it was the closest I’ll come to a hippie jam festival.  When the sun went down, the pot came out.  You’ve never seen so many thousands of people gathered in one place being so mellow.  G. Love shook us up a couple times, and Jack Johnson wrapped us in a sonic hug.  As a bonus, Johnson is also one of those performers who sounds exactly as beautiful live as on CD.

Which means I can stick to the CDs.


  1. I know what you mean about David Gray. It's all very familiar. More enjoyable somehow because it isn't making you listen for every nuance. Like a meal in a favourite restaurant, you come because you get it and know the menu inside out.

  2. He kept coming up on my MP3 player yesterday, and I kept feeling guilty for calling him butterscotch. I think I hang out with a lot of music afficianados who make me self-conscious of ny choices.