Independent Release, 2006
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/10/2006
Another breathy-voiced acoustic folk-pop singer-songwriter with another CD full of precious, self-consciously artful songs. Do we really have to?
Well, yes, we do. Because Jon Troast possesses that indefinable something that separates the wheat from the chaff, folksinger-wise -- that je ne se quoi of sincerity, wit, melodicism and observational power that elevates these songs from folk-pop cliché and lands them squarely in the rich storytelling tradition of a David Wilcox or a James Taylor.
Folk singer-songwriters -- the ones worth listening to -- tend to take a path that parallels but doesn’t necessarily intersect with pop songwriting. The chorus in a pop song is the simple, repeated-multiple-times phrase the audience sings back to you at your arena show; its meaning doesn’t usually extend much beyond that. In the folk tradition, the most memorable songs build a series of insights around a central line or image that functions as a sort of topic sentence-slash-punchline to the scenario the writer has set to music.
Troast here displays a gift for finding that resonant phrase to build his songs around, whether the subject is falling in love (“The closer she gets, the more I forget / About everything that’s not her”) or the emptiness of materialism (“If I’m gonna leave it all behind / Was it ever really mine?”). Displaying comparable craft, “The Most” captures the giddiness of new love, while “Hurt Me Like A Good Friend” sifts through the dark ruins of a crumbled one.
In every case, Troast’s words and the music behind them mesh beautifully; these tunes all grow from the base of his sharp acoustic playing (love the lilting intro to “Everything Not Her”), but deliver variety as well as Troast builds out tracks like the gorgeous ballad “Mary Jane” with piano and strings, while going for a spare, gritty, almost urban sound on the self-lacerating “Knock Down.” Troast’s vocals have the throaty, lived-in sound of a James Blunt or John Ondrasik, with precise yet effortless phrasing that’s pitch-perfect for these songs.
Second Story, Troast’s sixth independently released disc, was produced by Mitch Dane (Jars Of Clay) and features Jars’ Steve Mason on electric guitar, lap steel and banjo. It’s no accident these two lent their considerable talents to an indie singer-songwriter from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; he’s well worth their time. Jon Troast’s Second Story is smartly-crafted folk-pop that delivers both rich melody and clear-eyed insight.