Will Johnson

Record review

ACL Fest Reviews

Will Johnson

Vultures Await (Misra) No one has ever accused Will Johnson of being a messenger of sweetness and light. After all, this is a man who writes songs about industrial waste and couples dying from gas leaks. That said, the Austinite's second solo album, Vultures Await, is a soundtrack for anyone looking to drink themselves stupid. Johnson kicks things off channeling Tom Waits on the simple, spare "Catherine Dupree." It's just Johnson and his piano telling the tale of a woman setting her past on fire, onlookers powerless in her midst. "Just to Know What You've Been Dreaming" is its painfully lovely follow-up, the spurned lover willing to do anything for a glimpse into his loved one's life. Johnson's pain is palpable when he sings, "I would swim the seven seas just to crawl along your beaches." Empathy alone inspires smarting eyes stuck with tears. The violin of Johnson's South San Gabriel bandmate Scott Danbom on "Just Some Silence" and "Sleep a While" perfectly articulates longing, à la the Dirty Three. It's almost impossible to imagine that this emotionally complex album was recorded in a scant five days during the summer of 2003. The songs are, obviously, much more personal than what's to be found on a Centro-matic or South San Gabriel disc, and the intimacy created by this stark recording offers yet another view of a truly gifted songwriter on the ascendancy. (Sunday, Centro-matic plays 4pm, Austin Ventures stage)

****

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