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Red Light Room
Artist: Johnny Bennett
Label: False Momentum (indie)
Time: 5 tracks / 14:10
Sounding something like a young Bob Dylan played a bit too fast, Johnny Bennett’s up-front vocals on Red Light Room catch your attention right away. Bennett’s economical compositions leave his five man band little room for messy playing and they’re more than up to the task. Fronting the band on vocals and guitar, Bennett creates a sound reminiscent of the tight, punchy music on John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band solo album (think of “Remember,” with its percussive piano and driving bass line). The rest of the band is made up of guitar (Trevor Morgan), bass (Adrian Walther), drums and programming (Richie Pena), and Tim Veazey playing some signature rock/pop sounding piano. Thankfully, the production work on this project is crisp and bright, giving each element of these songs a good, solid presence. The final effect is that you get to hear these five men playing their musical roles with a minimum of studio augmentation – working-man’s rock with a pop edge. The piano work in particular, lends real character to the songs: in fact, until I read the credits, I’d assumed (incorrectly) that Bennett was behind the keyboard, since all of the songs are so well-colored by the piano contribution. It’s the refreshingly stripped-down sound of these four songs that makes them immediately ear-catching. Bennett writes lyrics that fit so neatly into his music that they become elements of the whole, and not simply afterthoughts; usually, the songs deal with observations on relationship issues but also take detours to subjects such as creativity and the recording business – at least, that what it sounds like. The lyrics aren’t always linear, in terms of narrative story-telling, but this makes it all more interesting. These are basically five very well-crafted, satisfying songs.
Johnny Bennett’s Red Light Room: tight, punchy, intelligent, well-played pop/rock with all of the fat cut off. Good stuff, good stuff. Bennett’s band has a great basic sound that could definitely yield some interesting projects in the future, and Bennett obviously has an interesting musical head on his shoulders. Open the door, turn on the red light, listen, and enjoy.