New Jonathan Richman

Jonathan Richman has a new record out, Because Her Beauty Is Raw And Wild, and there's no other way to put it: he's grown up (and that's not a bad thing). I guess you can only keep playing "Ice Cream Man" for so long, and Richman clearly doesn't want to rest on his laurels or trademark bubblegum-folk sound. He hasn't lost his simplicity entirely, but his newer music is more sophisticated than even many long-time fans expected. There's a few deeper themes than he usually writes about here, especially the last track, "As My Mother Lay Lying", but his common themes of love, life, and dead artists ("No One Was Like Vermeer") are still present, and it's musically that he's really grown the most. His songs are still sweet and breezy and charming, but there's a certain element of European troubadour about them now. The songs wear a pencil-thin moustache and often strum and pick with a definite Spanish (classical guitar) style, there are lyrics in both French and Spanish, and the sparseness of the music (just him plus Tommy Larkins on drums, sometimes some bass) helps easily conjure the image of Jonathan leaning against a white-washed wall at sunset while playing and singing these songs. His guitar chords and scale exploration are as jazzy as they've ever been, but it's never too much, just enough to keep the songs interesting. There's even some distorted guitar lead over one of the Spanish-rhythm strummers, a repeat performance of "When We Refuse To Suffer", sounding like a dare which somehow, of course, works. Every song is a winner, this is the perfect summer album and without a doubt one of the tops of the year.

The label Vapor Records simply links to Amazon for purchase, so head over there at once. The superb Jonathan fansite Jojoblog also has news of a Jonathan Richman multilingual album commissioned by the owner of a French fashion company who is a die-hard Richman fan, and just this month released solely through them: http://www.apc.fr. Jojoblog also links to a Jonathan Richman tribute due out soon. And thanks to Diamond Geyser for the photo at the top of Jonathan last month, there's several other good ones at the link, too.

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