Jenny and Johnny

I'm Having Fun Now

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Certainly, the title I’m Having Fun Now is a good indication of what the first album by LA lovebirds Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice is all about. Lewis may be regarded as one of the finest singer/songwriters of her generation, but her ambitions are kept in check here: all she wants to do is have some fun and maybe get some people to pay attention to her longtime boyfriend, who has had several attempts at the brass ring -- most notably the major-label 2007 Further North, which did get him some play on The OC -- but has never managed to grab it. An album-length duet with Jenny does force Lewis admirers to pay attention to Johnny, but I’m Having Fun Now doesn’t do him any enormous favors. He’s handily overshadowed by Lewis, who has a professional’s knack for grabbing the spotlight even as she’s seeming to step away from it. Whenever she’s out front, I’m Having Fun Now kicks into gear, its unassuming country-rockers given gas by her natural ease, and it sputters whenever he steps to the mike, losing its momentum and focus. Rice’s voice is too sweet and thin to command on his own, and when he’s paired with Lewis he’s simply steamrolled, fading into the background like a second acoustic guitar. So, as a career-boost for Rice, I’m Having Fun Now doesn’t quite work, but it’s an unforced good time anyway. It’s of piece with Acid Tongue, carved from its same country-rock, but its not weighed down by rustic mythology and substitutes pop flair for roots-rock. Its casualness sometimes surfaces in its tossed-off jokes or sing-song melodies, but that only underscores the fact that Jenny & Johnny are having a good time -- and it’s a good time that’s easy to share, even if one of the hosts doesn’t quite hold up his own end of the bargain.

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