Centro-Matic Fort Recovery

[Misra; 2006]

Styles: indie rock, indie pop, alt-country
Others: Varnaline, Pernice Brothers, Red Red Meat

One would be hard-pressed to find a harder working band than Centro-Matic or a harder working singer/songwriter than its leader, Will Johnson. Going for ten years strong now, Johnson and his crew have kept a pace of at least one full-length per year, with even a couple smaller releases thrown in for good measure. More recently, Johnson has even branched out to put out some other material both under his own name and with a second group, South San Gabriel. Obviously his is a prodigious talent that knows no satiety.

Realizing all this, one might question whether or not Centro-Matic's latest release, Fort Recovery, shows any signs of wear from Johnson's tiring regimen. Luckily, the answer is a resounding "no," as it kicks and struts just as hard as anything that came before it. Centro-Matic's version of alt-country has always been dirty and infused with a generous helping of Stones-y rock chaos, and Fort Recovery is no exception. Yet the dirt isn't used as cover for poor songs. Indeed, the catchiest song on the album, the cryptic "Calling Thermatico," could have been a tossed-off piece of riff-rock in the hands of a less-nuanced group of musicians, but here, the song is set perfectly in a narcotic haze that draws out its unmistakable beauty.

Much of that beauty comes from Johnson's voice, an instrument far more weatherworn than his youthful age justifies, sounding like it's been soaked in a particularly well-concocted mix of whiskey, beer, and various brands of smoke (maybe some cough syrup too... I'm just sayin'). It can function equally well in those rocking moments like "Calling Thermatico" and "Take a Rake" as in the more sullen settings of "I See Through You" or "For New Starts." The roughness implied by his gravel tone is undercut by his clear enunciation and incisive lyrics, situating him in rather Dylan-esque territory. This is appropriate, as Johnson is likely to become one of his generation's true poets, even if the mainstream hasn't found him yet. Mark my words; with material as strong as this, it's only a matter of time.

1. Covered Up in Mines
2. Calling Thermatico
3. Patience for the Ride
4. I See Through You
5. In Such Crooked Time
6. For New Starts
7. The Fugitives Have Won
8. Monument Sails
9. Triggers and Trash Heaps
10. Nothin' I Ever Seen
11. Take the Maps and Run
12. Take a Rake