Jon Danforth’s greatest asset is his voice in a landscape saturated by folk up-and-comers. An expressive croon navigates earthy, contemplative melodies in a way that recalls the likes of Langhorne Slim and Gill Landry. His lyrical tone isn’t one to shake a stick at, either—for instance, “End of the Line (Pinkman’s Song)” is written about exactly the man you’re thinking of and evades schmaltz entirely. Instead, it’s a stirring tribute to the Breaking Bad character, taking us on an emotional journey that sears with folk-rock guitars at its crescendo.
The Dallas singer-songwriter comes into his own on his debut LP, Beginning and End, due for release on 18 February. Perhaps it’s in the more harrowing side of his writing that he most effortlessly impresses, from the aforementioned “End of the Line” to the haunting, electric guitar-driven “Afterlife”. His vocal stamps forward with a frontman’s gusto—commanding in the wake of a fiery solo.
The opening tune “Sadie Willow Lane” sees Danforth conversate with a ghost, invoking eerie western tones that make for a captivating album introduction. There’s also something to be said about when Danforth strips his arrangements back. He jangles with a Dylan-esque verve on “I Still Miss Someone”, with memorable, sprightly guitar licks abound, and covers plenty of danceable, lovestruck essence in just about two minutes on “Linger”. A drumbeat reminiscent of a marching line taps in towards the last bit of the song, conveying a playful urgency.
Danforth also plays the role of a lovestruck everyman on the sweet, but not sickeningly so on “Maybe a Little” and “Cherry Tree”. The latter especially strikes a chord with this writer, approached with a forward-looking nostalgia that captures relatable feelings of a homegrown, familial love. This all culminates into the hymnal “Were You There”, spiraling into a gorgeous sweep of strings accompanying Danforth on this stirring, spiritual tune.