Date: June 29 2012
I GO to Rabbit Is Asleep here on Noahjohn's third and final album of Velvet Underground-meets-Jim Reeves deep Americana and I hear everything. I go to Promise Breakers and hear it all again. That one has God in it and I don't mind that because the songwriter (Carl Johns in this case, from Wisconsin, where Bon Iver were born) is serious. A lot of American roots music is God-fearing and that's why I like it. They're scared, they're out alone under the stars misnavigating the cosmos, wondering and wandering and unclear on direction or the afterlife. Is death part of life? So therefore it is not really a death? Even to deny God in these contexts is a great artistic statement: death is real. So let's go! Let's go straight to seventh gear! Promise Breakers is this debate. It's biblical, and presents what I'd call indie-Americana in a gospel manner: ''… everyone rise, 60,000 men and boys, onward Christian soldiers … '' Like Pavement, whose peak had come and gone by the time Johns started singing just like Steve Malkmus, Noahjohn introduce a modern cipher of American life, the ''football coach'' into a weird Jesus-y morality tale. ''Where is the wet nurse,'' he sings, over a jewelled riff that sounds as if it might break apart into Cowboy Junkies' version of Sweet Jane at any moment. ''Where is the purse?'' The Velvets and the Cowboy Junkies and Pavement hang like a blessing over this sanctified mess. The cello player, for example, is possibly the most important person in the band. Yet these are pure country songs - albeit performed by tattoos in cardigans - sweeter than sweet. And then there is Rabbit Is Asleep, a frightened gothic cosmic country warning about night swimming.
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