Jack Johnson

On and On

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It took Jack Johnson two years to break into the mainstream with his debut album, Brushfire Fairytales, and by the time it went platinum in early 2003, his star power was unstoppable. Twentysomethings and college kids across the globe often compared Johnson's comfortable approach to the fiery Ben Harper, so when it came time to make a second album, Johnson basically picked up where the first album left off. On and On is a sparkling sophomore effort, carefully designed to avoid any kind of critical slump. Fans will enjoy Johnson's soothing ballads and boy-next-door charms, never looking beyond the surface of the songs themselves. Producer Mario Caldato, Jr. (Beastie Boys, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) hones Johnson's feel-good vibe and polishes his signature acoustic guitars, while the musician himself continues honing his genre-blending sound. Johnson gets serious this time, too: he playfully expounds on America's sickening dependence on material things ("Gone") and its subconscious ill will with today's youth ("Cookie Jar"). Other views on world war ("Traffic in the Sky") and a capitalistic, business-obsessed way of life ("The Horizon Has Been Defeated") are gently reflected upon without reproach. Johnson doesn't need to be an aggressive messenger to get his point across; the sales of Brushfire Fairytales make that quite clear. Instead, people listen to Johnson's musical commentary because he puts himself on their level, shunning the philosophical preaching of his counterpart, Harper. On and On keeps things simple in sound and time, and the only noticeable change is that Johnson didn't lyrically restrain himself. There are 17 solid tracks featured here, each one of them rooted in spiritual grooves,funk, and blues. In dire times, Johnson is sunny -- and sunny always feels good.

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