Not easily falling into any subgenre under the banner of alternative country, Carl Johns and ten friends have crafted a highly eclectic collective effort that wears his wry songwriting stamp prominently. Utilizing a voice that falls somewhere between Stephan Malkamus and Gordon Gano, Johns shares the Pavement frontman's penchant for writing lyrics gloriously out of meter, but making up for the fact with quirky alliteration. The foreboding cello of the opening "Standing on a Snake" has an exhausted, world-weary feel that colors much of the songwriting here, though the songs certainly don't communicate a defeatist tone. The loosely chugging "Slow Bear," the only track not written by Johns, is a fancifully swinging old-timey country workout, featuring the expert pedal steel that figures so prominently in the NoahJohn group dynamic. The almost comically tragic cousins of misfortune in "Clubfoot John" and "Old Ham," which is wrapped in perfect banjo and mandolin, are indicative of the sly wit and humor that many of these tracks carefully mask. Even as the wild punkabilly of "Educated Dummy" is driven by a garage band engine, there seem to be no weak cogs in the NoahJohn collective, with many arrangements even being unpretentiously sophisticated. Frequently combining the spiritual and the profane, tracks like "More Like Jesus" reveal a songwriter who is comfortable incorporating the most traditional themes into his impressively distinct aesthetic. Overall, a gloriously rough, tough, literate, honest, sweetly innocent, and nearly perfect set of songs from a much needed different voice.
AllMusic Review by Matt Fink