Trouble Is Real
Take a lot of John Mayer, a little Joseph Arthur and a dash of Pete Yorn’s rough edges and you’ll have a basic idea of where this Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter is coming from on his major label debut. But it’s the attention to detail in songwriting and an eclectic mix of styles that will keep you from writing Rice off as just another raspy, mush-mouthed white guy trying to sound black.
“All the Protestant girls / They’re all swinging their hips / Fresh coat of red on their lips / In a solar eclipse,” he sings on the album’s impressive centerpiece “My Mother’s Son.” It begins as a desolate ballad with a heavy Tom Waits fixation. Then the orchestra kicks in and things get really interesting. Here, Rice manages to transcend comparison and come up with a powerful creation of his own.
Elsewhere, the string-laden ballad “The Acrobat” also impresses. “Stay At Home” has a jaunty, carnival-like feel and a children’s chorus. There are also punk-y electro-rockers like “Kiss Me Goodbye” and “Salvation Day,” the moody Radiohead-like dream pop of “City On Fire” and the stark acoustic number “Blood of God” that sounds like Ryan Adams at his most morose.
Sounding like a lot of the people the kids are into these days will no doubt be a big help to Johnathan Rice’s career. But it’s things like actual talent and good songs that will provide longevity, and Trouble Is Real has plenty of these on display.