The beauty of a man and his songs can only be exemplified by how solid those songs are. In a time when we relish in orchestrated movements and heavy handed arrangements, the best of some genres come from just one person singing and playing one instrument. While Will Johnson does incorporate a few players like Thor Harris for his seventh full length El Capitan, it’s primarily just a singer songwriter and his songs. Though it was recorded in just three days, the simplicity of how the album is laid out proves that great songwriting is still what makes for beautiful music.
The opening notes on “Teruel” tell you what you need to know about this album. The instrumental track blends an organ in the background with a tenderly played acoustic. The way in which Johnson plays delivers more passionate enjoyment than words could ever describe while setting the stage for what’s to come. Though the sway of acoustic played from the heart swoons your senses on “Los Cuervos,” Johnson’s vocals have the intimacy of a note that’s yet to be delivered. In the distance a key rings, underneath the acoustic and Johnson’s vocals it gives you just enough mystery to peak your interests. This basis continues on “Bloody Boxer” and carries over into “El Capitan.” Johnson isn’t going hard, it’s just his nature to come off as intense through his carefully chosen words and well crated notes. The strings that flow add depth to an already cavernous tone where the vocals have an air that wafts just a hair above the instruments in the most calming manner.
Where “I Am Back At The Window Again” has the inklings of a goodbye, songs like “Trouble” and “Ocean/Sea” have the sounds of the weary traveler. The embarked upon versus the unknown, the balance between a couple of instruments versus the room full of orchestrated players means that you’re dealt a hand that feels just as victorious. While “Inclined” has just enough of an upbeat pace to grab a hold of your ears and never let go, the favorite of these twelve songs comes on “Dear To The Assassin.” The boldness of the guitar alone draws you closer. On speakers the track reverberates and fills the room with Johnson’s playing as if he’s there with you. With headphones you keep looking up to see where’s he’s singing to you from. The haunting nature of the track proves that Johnson is in his stride as far as songwriting goes, while still proving that one man and his songs is more than enough when the songs are this good.
El Capitan is available to stream on all streaming sites including on Bandcamp. It can be purchased in all digital outlets, or preordered physically directly from Keeled Scales. Will Johnson is to begin touring on January 21 at The Kessler Theater in Dallas, TX until May 02 in Fort Lauderdale, FL at Broward Center for the Performing Arts. His complete tour schedule is accessible here.
Image Credits: Photo by Abigail Enright.