This review was first
published on CLUAS in 2002
Other albums reviewed in 2002
A review of their album 'Brought four ways out of town'
This accomplished debut album introduces us to the fresh - if slightly off-beat - songwriting skills of Goodtime John backed up by the top class musicianship of a band made up of members of the Connect Four Orchestra and the Redneck Manifesto. Released on the Volta Sounds label there is a lot here to recommend. Goodtime John would probably be the first to admit he is not blessed with the most powerful voice but there is something strangely compelling about the softly spoken, almost strained quality to his vocals.
The album's opening lines suck you right in with an almost prescient description of the brutal summer we're having bringing a smile to the face: "When it rains in this city / it crashes down like a plane / But I ain't looking for pity cause every goddam town's the same". When a bit of nifty banjo picking kicks in a couple of lines later the smile widens a little bit more.
There is nothing incredibly unique or original about Goodtime John's observations on love lost, love found and a yearning for the attractive simplicity of the good life but he does have a quirky and self-deprecating sense of humour which shines through. "I used to sing a lot in lots of places / until I realised what a disgrace I was", from one of the stand out tracks, 'Goodtimes at the Top of the Line' is a perfect example of his ability not to take himself too seriously. That for me can only be a good thing.
There is a sense to this album that the musicians involved enjoyed making it and this is reflected in the very relaxed, informal feel to it. What really sets this album apart from its contemporaries in the quiet movement however is the exceptional instrumentals and stirring outros to many of the songs. In particular the (wonderfully titled) instrumental, 'Did you meet anyone better than yourselves' and the unexpected but powerful guitar workouts at the end of Stay Down and Throw a Question. The combination of Goodtime John's simple ballads with the Rednecks / Connect Four treatment is an inspired one.
A lot done, more to do but this is a very promising debut.
Check out an interview with Goodtime John here.