So there’s this thing that I’m sure can’t be unique to me and I really hope that someone reading this will confirm but: you know how you can initially be pretty into an artist / group only to lose interest completely then, years later, rediscover and wonder why the hell you dropped out?
One of those artists that fit in this category for me is Jack Johnson. Some time back in 2003/4 someone recommended I check out this dude who plays some pretty chill, cool stuff. Which I did and I quite enjoyed the two albums that Jack had then put out: Brushfire Fairytales and On and On. They had a nice laid back feel and some good acoustic guitar playing pushing some catchy lyrics and nice ideas. Felt like there was a promise of something better to come..
Come album three, though, everybody and their radio playlist programming brother seemed to catch the Jack Johnson wave and you couldn’t turn the radio dial without hearing “I hope this old train break downs”. Then he went and made a soundtrack album for some film about a cartoon monkey and with my tastes at the time moving toward the heavier… I tuned out.
Cut to later… a decade-plus later in fact, and it turns out that cartoon monkey is a Curious one called George and my young son loves the film and keeps singing the songs from the soundtrack. So, being who I am I download the thing so we can listen to it in the car (it makes a nice change from The Muppets soundtrack ad naseum) and, what do you know, it actually floats my boat too. So I figure it’s time to see what else Jack had been up to since I tuned out. And, bugger; I find a lot that I dig in his last few albums. So much so, in fact, that they’re on quite a bit these days.
There’s no new ground being broken by Mr Johnson; he’s a retired-competitive surfer (he was the youngest surfer invited to the Pipe Masters but a pretty harsh accident a week later split his head open and ko’d his surf career) who still lives in Hawaii so he’s not about to bust out an OK Computer. Something of a renaissance man and very much active in environmentalism especially, appropriately enough, with a focus on the oceans. Jack Johnson delivers predominantly acoustic based tunes though increasingly embellished with electric guitars and organ with what Rolling Stone have summarised as a ‘Zen-master delivery and swaying-palm-tree melodic sense.’
Once upon a time.. yeah: that was not where my tastes were at. Now as I get older and mellower… well I’m digging it. The fact that my son now sings along to the tunes with me too, well that’s just the icing.
Oddly enough, during my recent rediscovery of Mr Johnson I found that I shared this awakening to his music with none other than Mr Vedder: “There was a point about two or three years ago when I was with Ben Harper. I said, ‘Okay, Ben, how about you and me chip in and get Jack a distortion pedal?’ And we had a little bit of a laugh, you know? But I thought about that a lot, and that was my fault that I wasn’t getting it. What he’s doing is real. As opposed to him getting a distortion box or opposed to him trying to be something else, it’s real. There are so many positive things that you get from listening to his records or seeing him live. I didn’t get it for a long time, but now I get it.”
I haven’t met Ben Harper, let alone chatted Mr Johnson with him. But I did talk to the same friend who’d initially recommended him to me and he had a more succinct response to my having tuned out so much enjoyable music for so long: “you bloody knob”.
So, to stop being a knob, here’s Five From Jack Johnson that I’ve been enjoying of late:
The original of this is pretty strong but I wouldn’t be a Pearl Jam fan if I didn’t prefer this version.
To The Sea
I guess somebody did by him a distortion pedal.
Ones and Zeros