South San Gabriel
Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., May 9, 2003
South San GabrielWelcome, Convalescence (Undertow) Welcome Will Johnson. South San Gabriel is the lushly arranged side project of Centro-matic frontman Johnson, the local-via-Denton-ite who late last year unloaded a wonderfully stripped-down solo album. South San Gabriel, which features Johnson's Centro-matic bandmates Matt Pence, Scott Danbom, and Mark Hedman, as well as Slobberbone's Brent Best and Pleasant Grove pedal-steel player Joe Butcher, has been active for several years now. Inspired by Centro-matic's molasses-drizzled 2000 album South San Gabriel Songs/Music, the prolific Johnson now saves most of his slower songs for SSG or his solo releases. On Welcome, Convalescence, most of the tracks get the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot treatment. "New Brookland" opens the album with Powerbook chirps nestled amid the pedal-steel and fiddle embellishments of Butcher and Danbom. Gentle epic "Everglades" is laptop Americana, Johnson's scratchy poetics transcending his term-paper vocabulary. Vibes and steel cast the eight-minute missive into a stimulating dream state thanks to a creeping crest of white fuzz. All eight tracks are winners, which is what we've come to expect from the consistently brilliant Johnson. Welcome, Convalescence tops even its predecessor, South San Gabriel Songs/Music. This is the summer album you want to hear while nestled up to the air-conditioner after coming in from the 100-degree heat. The definition of cool.