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Album Review

TREY JOHNSON
Thank God For the Internet

Trey Johnson. A member of one-time Dallas-based band, Sorta. Huh. Who knew? According to the one-sheet, plenty of people, some of whom placed Sorta's songs on TV and some of whom thought the music worthy of awards. So where the hell was I? Dunno. It sounds like it is worth a trip back, though, as Sorta produced four full-length albums. I figure if they stuck around that long, they either have talent or deep pockets. Yeah, I know. Lots of deep pockets out there.

I have no idea how deep Johnson's pockets are, but it doesn't take more than one listen to hear the talent. Cut from the same cloth as Harry Nilsson, Jackson Browne, Guy Clark, Randy Newman and the more to-date Greg Laswell or Kevin Welch, Johnson cuts his way through eleven compositions which scream talent, in fact. These are not your run-of-the-mill songs. These are in-your-face brilliant songs presented in a straightforward manner, sans electronic wizardry. You heard me. No Autotune here. No engineering bells and whistles. With Mount Pelee, you get stripped down band and arrangements with strings and brass enough only to make a point.

The point is made song by song and in a number of ways. Bragging Type relies on great chorus and subtle Blood Sweat & Tears-type brass section, bouncy and upbeat (in an almost Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Vein). Unfavorable Way is just short of Vaudeville at first, the mandolin, trumpet and piano giving an olden approach, and you have to admit that the tongue-in-cheek lyrics in the chorus are pure class (“Somewhere, someone's thinking of you/In a most unfavorable way”). A Fire, Train and a Memory is a cross between Kris Kristofferson and Guy Clark, almost country-by-default. Lucky When Someone Loves You is a laid back look at love until the very end when it turns into a long 50s fadeout, acoustic guitar and chorded organ magic in its simplicity.

That line, “Thank God for the Internet”? It is from the album closer, The Radio, slow and somber, a lament at the lack of respect his songs, his children if you will, have gotten. It is a dirge, an acceptance of fate as regards his music and at the last, he sings, “Sometimes I still listen to the radio/And I don't ever hear my songs” after which he says, in an almost exhausted fashion, “Thank God for the Internet”. I can't even begin to describe the dramatic impact of that moment. You can't help but feel the frustration and despair.

Is this album good? Let me put it this way. If I had a wife or girlfriend, this is an album I would give her. That not being the case, I am perfectly content to lay back, beer in hand, and enjoy it myself. Truth be told, I don't listen to radio because I know I will never hear music this good. I know. I hear you screaming 'satellite' right now, but my chance of hearing The Radio, even there, is nil at best. It is a shame that the Trey Johnson's of the world are trapped by a structure that doesn't work, but such is the state of radio. And you can Spotify and Ipodize all you want, you will only find music this good by chance. It saddens me. It makes me hang my head and half-whisper Johnson's closing line of one of the best albums of 2009: “Thank God for the Internet”. Think I'll crack open another beer and play this again. See you in 2010.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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