Boy In The Water the latest album from John Patrick Halling is an interesting Americana folk-rock sound that evokes the more countryside of Ryan Adams and some of the early albums from M. Ward. There are six songs where Halling is backed by a band and the final song which showcases him alone and where he really shines.
“Siren Song” opens the album with a guitar that’s very upfront before being joined by mandolin and fiddle nodding a bit to some of the “American Beauty” Grateful Dead feel. The song is an interesting folk song but is obscured a bit by the mix as well as some really out of time drumming. “Misfit Toys” follows with an interesting verse but a chorus that doesn’t quite reach beyond the excitement of what’s happened before (and also some more out-of-time cluttered-ness from the band).
Things pick up quite a bit with “Downtown Blues” which shows off some deft electric guitar leads throughout. The song also features some nice builds and dips in the energy giving it a barroom electric Chicago blues sound. ‘Ballad Of a Gypsy Queen” has some nice west coast surf guitar along with some organ. The melody is nice and really opens up in the chorus.
“Jorogumo” has some disturbingly great metaphors in the lyrics and some good backing vocals. The drum part is interesting and builds throughout. “Bummer, Bummer” has a really catchy melody (though a bit wordy in the chorus), some chime-y guitars, pulsing bass line, and features the best mix of the “band songs” on the album.
“If I Would’ve Known” closes the album with Halling alone with his guitar singing a very intimate and moving song about missed opportunity. Without the band surrounding him, the lyrics and melody really shine through; it’s the best song on the album. It would be interesting to hear some of the other songs stripped down like this.
Overall the album features some nice songs and Halling has a unique likeable singing voice. It feels a bit cluttered throughout, however with some of the arrangements and some simplifications it could really let some of the songs reach some new heights (as he does on the closer).
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