Johnathan Rice

Good Graces

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Similar in style and cadence to I'm Having Fun Now, his 2010 collaboration with longtime collaborator/ significant other Jenny Lewis, Laurel Canyon-based singer/songwriter Johnathan Rice's rootsy, jangle pop-tinged third solo outing cruises on by like a retired muscle car on a sunset drive, but there's a darkness to Good Graces that suggests a long and difficult journey filled with overcast days and stormy nights. Things begin innocuously enough with the breezy "Acapulco Gold," an ode to weed, love, and second chances that, like much of the record, falls somewhere between the less bombastic side of Springsteen, the lovelorn, urban folk-rock of Jackson Browne, and the unassuming, dirt road anthems of Gin Blossoms, but songs like the propulsive, National-esque "Nowhere at the Speed of Light" and the twang-kissed title track, despite their sunny, melodic disposition, are largely fueled by desperation, a theme that bubbles up from between cracks in the road more often than not throughout the nine-track collection. Lewis provides backing vocals throughout, and her occasional callbacks and wordless howls provide Good Graces with an ache that Rice's fluid, yet unremarkable croon yearns for but never quite captures. That said, Rice's sepia-tone tales of worry, wisdom, woe, and wild-at-heart love feel authentic and lived in, and while they may lack the spark needed to light a fire that's big enough to bring him out from behind Lewis' shadow, they still manage to provide enough light to warm the bones of even the weariest traveler.

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