For a musician who has been around as long as Alain Johannes, usually but not always in a supporting role, it has taken a while for him to record a solo album. Fans of the band Eleven will recognize him as the co-leader, along with wife/creative partner Natasha Shneider, of that group, who sporadically released five sets between 1991 and 2003. But those who pay attention to liner notes will see him pop up as a utility man/producer/engineer on work from Queens of the Stone Age, No Doubt, Chris Cornell, Them Crooked Vultures, Eagles of Death Metal, and more. The untimely 2008 death of wife Shneider from cancer seems to have been the catalyst for Johannes to record the first disc credited to him alone. It's a one man project in every way; he plays all the instruments, sings, produces, and wrote all eight tracks. The songs generally reference his wife both overtly in "Endless Eyes," a tune written expressly for a 2008 all-star benefit concert celebrating her life, and more obliquely in others. The entirely acoustic sound is melancholy throughout, but this is no quiet folk album. Johannes has a unique, often piercing voice that cuts through the production and into your brain. His layered guitars often have an East Indian feel, both subtly and more openly on "Make God Jealous," a track seemingly inspired by Jimmy Page's similar instrumental forays into that style on "White Summer" and "Black Mountain Side." It's a predominantly downbeat but far from depressing affair, especially when Johannes uses unusual guitar tunings and his own overdubbed background vocals to spice up the dark tinged sound. The final three titles are named "The Bleeding Whole," "Gentle Ghosts," and "Unfinished Plan" and that provides a capsule idea of the concept. The short release (just under half-an-hour) sounds like a catharsis of sorts for Johannes, yet it's never gloomy or disheartening. His obvious commitment to the material and sharp instrumental, vocal, lyrical, and production skills leave the listener wanting more from this emotionally charged solo debut that will hopefully be the start of a long-delayed solo career.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz