Bill Janovitz' first solo album, Lonesome Billy, was a far cry from the passionate guitar clatter of his best-known work with Buffalo Tom, and his second set away from the band, Up Here, is an even greater departure into a quieter and more delicate approach. While the playful atmospherics of Lonesome Billy suggested a smart guy's approach to alt-country, Up There is a good bit more introspective and folk-oriented, with cleaner textures and arrangements that are often structured around nothing more than Janovitz' acoustic guitar and Phil Aiken's keyboards. The songs are also just a bit closer to what one might expect from the leader of Buffalo Tom -- while the arrangements are spare, the often lovelorn tone of the lyrics shouldn't surprise anyone who recalls "Taillights Fade" or "Velvet Roof," and the melodies have plenty of body, even if the performances are purposefully minimal. And while Up Here isn't as physically powerful as Janovitz' work with Buffalo Tom, he offers no doubt that he can still pack plenty of heart, soul, and emotional energy into a performance without cranking up his Marshall stack -- the spectral lover's cry of "The Atlantic," the lost-love story of "Minneapolis," and the jaunty "Long Island" all prove this guy knows how to bring his songs across, and his harmonies with Chris Toppin on "Half a Heart" are simply beautiful. If Lonesome Billy suggested a different direction where Bill Janovitz' talents could go outside of Buffalo Tom, Up There shows another path that is at once closer to the heart and farther removed from the approach of his better-known group; it's a splendid late-night mood piece and not just a time-filler until Buffalo Tom reconvenes for its next album.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming