Recommended Albums #40

mountain jack

Hans Rotenberry & Brad Jones: Mountain Jack (2010)

The original compact disc, as developed by engineers from Philips and Sony in a rare collaborative effort, was 74 minutes, 42 seconds in length. Why? Because Norio Ohga, the head of Sony and a former opera singer, insisted his company not produce a new format that could not play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in its entirety.

But musically speaking it’s a long way down from Beethoven to the bottom-feeders. And the fact that we now have 70+ minutes’ capacity on an album, as opposed to the 45 or so the vinyl LP afforded, is too often taken as an invitation for modern artists to shovel additional music onto an album–music that wouldn’t have made the cut in the vinyl era.

That’s why it’s refreshing when an album like Mountain Jack comes along. Clocking in at under 33 well-paced, enjoyable and ballad-free minutes, it sounds like an edit I’d make myself from a longer album.

Hans Rotenberry is lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of Nashville power pop band the Shazam and Brad Jones is that band’s long-time producer. Outside of Tennessee the Shazam’s profile is pretty low; for these guys to release an album outside the band umbrella places it into even more obscure territory.

But this one’s well worth tracking down.

Mountain Jack is just a good old-fashioned guitar rock album, leaning toward the power pop sound in some places (“Back to Bristol” and the sunny, anthemic album closer “It Would Not Be Uncool”) and hewing closer to a rootsy Americana vibe in others (the Steve Earle-channeling “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Anyone” and the Wilburyesque shuffle “Next to You”). And “Greef” is the best new Rolling Stones song I’ve heard in years.

Rotenberry always knew how to deliver power pop with a little more backbone than most. His winning formula consists of plenty of bottom, some vocal grit and an extra helping of guitar riffage. And personally, I’m always trying to get more riffage in my diet.

Listen to: “A Likely Lad”

 

Listen to: “Next to You”

 

Listen to: “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Anyone”

 

Listen to: “Greef”

 

Don’t miss: “Back to Bristol”

 

Listen to: “Putting On Airs Tonight”

 

Listen to: “It Would Not Be Uncool”

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