Release Date: Nov 27, 2015
Record label: Three Crows Records
Ethan Johns has managed to attract acclaim as both a musician and a producer. He has played guitar for Emmylou Harris and drums for CSN; he produced and played on Ray LaMontagne’s debut album and he has breathed new life into Sir Tom Jones’ career. In short, he has excellent form on stage, in the studio and at the mixing desk. As a result he has the know-how, the connections and the contacts book to put together a great record on his own account, as Silver Liner shows.
As Neil Young invests his energy into making “ecologically focused” albums and Ryan Adams slides sycophantically into Taylor Swift’s squad, there’s a gap in the market for an earnest Americana frontman. Rock producer and sometime singer-songwriter Ethan Johns certainly has the creative vision to scale the heights of rootsy solo guitar music, but his lyrical prowess is lacking. His third solo album is full of atmospheric desert rock and country – think Wilco, Laura Marling, moody e-bows and finger-picked guitars – but while he masters the woozy, scorched sonics, he is not the captivating wordsmith such songs traditionally require.
There’s no doubting Johns’s credentials to supply an album of grizzled country and folk. He has played with Crosby, Stills and Nash and produced records by Ryan Adams and Ray Lamontagne. But for anyone not instantly sold on gravel-voiced Americana, it’ll feel like hard work. Careworn tales of the road are one thing, but you wish that tracks such as 6+9 didn’t sound quite so weary.