Johnny J Blair – Treadmarks (CD)

The acoustic-heavy opening to “Treadmarks” is the “We Didn’t Start The Fire”-inspired “One Planet – One Utopia – One Helmet”. The phrasing of the lyrics during the track is at least as random as the aforementioned Billy Joel song, without the interesting piano work to divert a critical eye from this randomness. The guitar lines, while maintaining a certain cohesion tend to break down after tremendous repetition; Johnny J Blair just does not know where to stop with this track (the nearly four minutes could conceivably be syncopated to about three, after reducing this repetition.)

“Music Up Inside Of Me” adds a drumming sound captured by non-traditional drumming; this would not be a big deal if it wasn’t exactly what most acoustically-led (this includes a capella music) music needs, and yet the average act tends to stay away from the stomp, because of some perceived “lack of professionalism”. This taboo needed to be broken; now all that one can hope for is that other acts will take Blair’s pioneering position to the next level. Thus, while tracks like “Music Up Inside Of Me” may find itself in nearly the same straits as the average “kid with an acoustic” in the frat house, the track itself rises above the nameless masses due to this extra bit of care shown. Each of the tracks on “Treadmakes” are crafted with a care that will bring masses of listeners into Johnny J Blair’s line of sight; one only need sit Johnny down with a guitar and watch individuals mass as ey comes out with eir soulful and catchy acoustic-rock (shown most successfully by “Sky Cries”.)

However, what does come out time and time again as a minor nuisance is Blair’s flouting of the line between delightful and annoying; the repetition present on “One Planet – One Utopia – One Helmet” is matched in this by the vocal (not lyrical) half-moaning, emoting that nearly wrecks “Somebody Loves You “ by extending too long in the early going. The vocal inflections that play such a large role in “Sam Said” are truly the flipside to the weakness shown in “Somebody Loves You”; Johnny’s vocals recall (but are not a pale imitation of) Rufus Wainwright and Warren Zevon during the track, while the harmonies achieved by eir voice recall the boy-bands of the late fifties and early sixties. Fun music that will get one’s toes tapping even if the music contained within is not at the bleeding edge of experimentation.

Top Tracks: Sam Said, Music Up Inside of Me

Rating: 5.7/10

Johnny J Blair – Treadmarks / 9 Tracks / http://www.wampus.com/artists/jjblair / http://www.wampus.com / Reviewed 27 September 2005

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