Jono Manson – Stars Enough To Guide Me
Having been around the barn a few times Jono Manson still swings after years in the musical wilderness. With this set Manson sings with Grammy-winner John Popper (Blues Traveler) on the J.J. Cale-type ballad “No New Kind of Blue,” & it’s instantly infectious. It’s not innovative or stirring any fresh coals in the fire but it’s got built-in warmth.
The 11-cut self-produced Stars Enough To Guide Me (Drops March 31 – Blue Rose) was recorded in Santa Fe, NM with additional recordings in 4 other studios. It’s filled with music that’s like a rootsy Willie Nile, rural Mellencamp & gutsy like Jon Dee Graham.
Unfortunately, there are no lyric inserts. Songs like “The Further Adventures of Goat Boy & The Clown,” with its Dylan-inspired lyrical bows & knots would be a nice sing-along. Manson shines on songs like this since his voice is a natural storyteller. Surprisingly, “Timberline,” is like a classic country song – rendered with poignancy & sincerity. Jono has found his place though he’s been there already for a long time.
The support is stellar & Manson manages to unveil some high-octane songwriting. There’s a maturity in Jono’s voice as he sings with the same resoluteness of a Buddy Miller. Jono doesn’t have a strong voice with lots of range, but he makes up for it with character in every tune (“Make It Through the Spring”).
He’s developing a storytelling routine that’s on a path tread by John Prine. Manson seems to have that sense of Prine-humor too on “Before We Get Stupid,” with Crystal Bowesox. Excellent.
It’s such a stimulating thing to see a long-driven artist find his voice & hear it for himself. This isn’t just starting a new chapter; this is an entirely new book. Manson has a bottomless pool of resources if he’d just go beyond the accepted proclivity for rehashing & nostalgia. He sings these songs from an appropriate age. He’s done it. He’s gone down the conscience roads Elvis Costello & Rod Stewart & on his last CD the late pop-singer Bobby Vee (Robert Thomas Velline) took. They challenged their own talent & delivered.
Highlights – “Lights Go Out,” “No New Kind of Blue,” “The Further Adventures of Goat Boy & The Clown,” “Timberline,” “The Last Man Shot In the War,” “Make It Through to Spring,” “As Long As Grass Grows,” “Alone” & “Before We Get Stupid.”
Guests — John Popper (lead vocal/harmonica), Eric Ambel (electric-acoustic guitars) & Eliza Gilkyson (harmony vocal). Musicians – Jono (electric-acoustic guitars/electric-acoustic tenor guitars/lead & harmony vocals), Ronnie Johnson (bass), Mark Clark (drums/percussion), John Graboff (electric-acoustic guitars/pedal steel guitar/mandolin), Kein Tarinor (electric guitar), Jason Crosby (organ/piano/electric piano/violin/harmony vocal), John Egenes (dobro/mandolin), Beppe Gambetta (acoustic guitar), Paul Pearcy (drums/tambourine/shaker), Craig Drever (tenor & baritone sax/horn arrangements), Clark Gayton (trombone), Barry Danielian (trumpet), Trevor Bahnson (lead vocal/electric guitar), Myrrhine Faller (harmony-background vocals), David Berkeley & Crystal Bowersox (lead vocals), Sally Van Meter (dobro/Weissenborn) & Jeff Scroggins (banjo).
CD @ Music samples at Bandcamp + http://www.jonomanson.com/