Bravo Johnson: The Crooked and the Straight

[20 May 2008]

By Maura Walz

It’s pretty bold for a band—even one whose debts to the long-form jams of the Dead, the Allman Brothers, the Band, the Byrds, Santana, and Skynyrd are practically emblazoned on their guitars and Wurlitzer organs—to release a two hour-long double album as their sophomore album. But Bravo Johnson are intent and unapologetic for taking their time as they plumb the depths of classic rock. They almost drown in those depths, teetering on the cliffs of excess as much as any modern jam band (whose noodling, as a genre, can be either hailed as transcendent or condemned as embarrassingly exorbitant, depending on your patience and affinity for guitar solos). The Crooked and the Straight’s dual title does not refer to a stylistic split between the album’s two discs—the tracks are numbered consecutively through to the end, and the album maintains a consistently jangly aesthetic throughout, challenging the listener to make it through all twenty-seven songs. 

What prevents Bravo Johnson from getting mired in all their jangle, despite the album’s extreme length, are the hooks. Lead singer and songwriter Rick Amurrio (whose vocals mostly evoke Tom Petty, except for when he sounds like Ronnie Van Zant) sings over truly catchy guitar licks and harmonies that manage not to get bogged down. The band keeps most of the tunes around the four-minute mark, and is able to keep catchy tracks like “Aimlessly Drifting”, “Losing My Mind”, and “Loveblind” lean enough to prevent the listener from getting bored or overwhelmed. It’s still not an album to sit down with start to finish, but dipping in and out will let a nostalgic listener revisit the heyday of classic rock without either sitting through twenty-minute jams or resorting to the overplayed rock radio standards.

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