Charlemagne Charlemagne

[Winterlander; 2004]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: alt-country, pop
Others: Beck, Wilco, Modern State

From the man behind the psychedelic country outfit, Noah Johns, the prospect of a solo singer/songwriter/producer release could bring expectations of a separatist jaunt into some strange realm of bewildering artistry which the freedom of a solo release offers. Rather, what Carl Johns has given us with the self-titled Charlemagne album is a cohesive jaunt into a pop, alt-country world inhabited by crusty cowboys whose dawning of western snap shirts isn't necessarily an a la mode statement. In the dilapidated footsteps of where such artists as Uncle Tupelo, Richard Buckner, and the like have taken No Depression, Charlemagne provides a sonic outlet for the acoustic drawl of country pop.

It's a simple formula employed by Johns. Acoustic and bass guitars, Casio beats, and effortless vocals sung about heartache, loss, and desperation. The light tones of Johns' acoustic guitar give the music a lift, which, in turn, is grounded by his steady, simple bass lines and consistent Casio beats. Though, Johns' singing voice may have little tonal variation from track to track, giving the album a repetitive feel, he has found something which works well for him and he has kept true to this rendering of his amalgamated singing voice.

With what surely could have been Mutations or Sea Change had Beck not the abstract references and fiscal opportunities to afford production from Nigel Godrich, Johns' melancholic vocals coupled with layers of acoustic guitar, strong bass, and Casio beats afford this release the kick of a pop album with the boots of a country album.

1. Behold! Charlemagne
2. Prisoner Of
3. Two Steps Ahead
4. In Abstentia
5. Dawn Upon
6. August Evenings
7. Go Natives
8. Holland Daisy
9. How Could He?
10. Champagne Chin
11. Portrait With No Shortage of History