Like the cat that has nine lives, John John Brown can claim some excellent survival skills. “During the middle of the recording of The Road, I fell down a 75 foot well and survived because my guitar broke my fall,” he says by way of introduction. That’s either an ominous or fortuitous way to launch a debut album, depending on the way one views it. Happily, Brown has had his share of good fortune, most notably in the fact that he recently made it to the final round of the “New Folk” competition at the career-defining 2015 Kerrville Folk Festival. That was followed by a subsequent win at the 2016 South Florida Folk Festival Songwriting Contest. “Do you ever feel like nothing really matters?” he asks in the title track. Given the different set of circumstances, the answer may be obvious.
Regardless, The Road is one of those albums that suggests Brown’s talents have been stirring for some time. A supple and suggestive blend of astute Americana accompanied by a quiet, reflective glow, these ten songs offer up an air of quiet contemplation and wistful contentment. The easy shuffle of “The Road,” the gentle reflection of “Heartshine” (featuring soothing accompaniment from guest vocalist Laney Jones) and the lovely lament “On Our Own Again” provide an immediate embrace that strikes a satisfying chord from practically the first note on. Brown’s biographical narrative on “The Wind” suggests there’s some turmoil to temper the tranquility that’s mostly evident throughout, but regardless, The Road bodes well for Brown’s future trajectory. It will be well worth following him to see where that road leads.