What would happen if pinks, yellows, and robin-egg blues, off-the-sweater-cuff whimsy, and twee vanished? Well, something like this: an album comprised of Calvin Johnson’s songs redone by sufficient musicians (Jason Anderson, Kyle Field, and Adam Forkner). Johnson, legend that he is, remains constant — he’s the staple, the one in the corner of a handmade fanzine. His baritone still blares, but the utter amateurish musicianship he’s associated with has been revamped into something suitable, average.
The Sons of the Soil (the aforementioned trio of bandmates) accompanied Johnson on a West Coast tour in 2003. On that road trip, juvenility turned professional, naiveté turned to expertise. Then again, Johnson has always been an expert, whether it’s with community, creation, or longevity. The guy is known for many things, none of which are orderly music. It's no surprise that this album is somewhat of a baffler — somewhat of a turnoff.
Calvin Johnson & The Sons of the Soil isn’t so much a powwow in Dub Narcotic Studio; it’s more in the spirit of leaving Olympia and bringing enough underwear for the duration of your escape. It should be added, the tour these gentlemen embarked on proved to be a rehearsal, for only after their return did the music manifest itself as an album. Evidence of the band’s development on the tour can be found in the form of cattle calls and “Tummy Hop.” This gives the album sort of a Neil Young studio/live feel.
Although it’s a brushed-up, polished-off, lint-removed version of Johnson, the spirit of K Records remains. That scrawled 11th letter of the alphabet inside that lopsided shield is still present. The promotion staff at K Records still leaves five spaces between words so they can hand-draw the symbol in. This alone gives Calvin Johnson the right to drop everything and get serious for a second.