The Palmer, Alaska five-piece band known as the John Budnik Band had their humble beginnings at an old open mic bar. Though the songs on their debut record Transformations are fully fleshed out with influences such as blues, jazz, country, rock and soul, they still have that sense of DIY camaraderie at their core.
Principal songwriter John Budnik has assembled an excellent cast of musicians to help bring these songs a life that they wouldn’t have if Budnik simply performed them solo.
Transformations opens with the reminiscent bluesy rocker “So Cal” on which Budnik pines for the old days “I just want to be on that beach / with the sand, beneath my knees / I just want to ride that board all day long / until I hear the dinner bell song.” Then as the song winds to a close we are struck with the lines “Don't you know it's about transformations? / I mean how are you to grow? / Change something about yourself / So others can take note.” Wise words which begin the cycle inward spirituality that so many of these songs harbor.
On the jazzy “Paint You a Picture” Budnik laments “You were my blank canvas / you left the rest up to me / Our paint blends oh-so serious / just like a sunset hitting the sea.” Here Budnik is using his metaphors to paint different kinds of transformations as musically the song brightly bounces along with a catchy riff and equally matched beats.
A while later on “Wild Thing” is a subdued folksy crooner despite its title. Here once again we hear Budnik’s backing band delivering tightly wrought and catchy melodies that grab hold of the soul. I got the same feeling on the easygoing “Gypsy Ballad” with its laid back approach but very layered musical structure seeming to be the bands signature calling card.
But Budnik and the band are also capable of bringing a laid back, unobtrusive style of rock via a band like The Cars as they do on the excellent “She ain’t that Kind of Girl.”
Transformations is an album about change, an attempt to change oneself and also the changes that occur as part of being alive. It’s a deeply endearing look at the cards that life deals out and the attempts made to play the hand you’ve been dealt.
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