Son of John – Every Second Step


Son of John

Every second step

self released


Son of JohnThe sound and programming of have tripled since its debut, autumn anthemreleased in 2016. After this slice of smoky gospel and Americana, Jacob Johnson bassist recruited John Parker and later dropped the duo EP Live at Fieldgate Studio in 2018. Fast forward to 2020, and the duo are back after Jacob’s time in Australia, this time with a drummer and percussionist Jack Walker in tow and a set of songs ready to be recorded as Every second step. In addition to the basic trio, the album features a wide range of players and instruments to create a sound that is immediately richer and more complex than fans will be accustomed to. Opener Keep it low keyThe artful percussion of suggests a new direction before the strings (Kate St John deserves credit for its string and brass arrangements throughout) and the keys sweep with Jacob’s signature throaty timbre. It’s clear from the start that Son of John is looking to do something very different with their second album proper; the song’s drum and bass notes contain jazz overtones, and the urgency of the music, especially in the final third when Jacob’s acoustics gain momentum, almost overshadows the vocals . It seems to be much more than a singer-songwriter album.

Tunes are originals except for the traditional gospel call-and-response song John the Revealer, which immediately surprises with a spoken baritone rendition of a poem by Emily McCoy. The song itself is closer to the Curtis Stigers and Forest Rangers version than the super gritty Blind Willie Johnson’s. The percussion comes out again in the intro, as does a spooky slide guitar line hovering like a specter above the poetry. But then Parker’s springy double bass notes kick in, and the whole sound becomes more menacing and seductive. The vocals are also excellent, with Jacob’s low voice going nicely from heavy to light slurring and the backing vocals do a good job, but the instrumental accompaniment is like a carnival nightmare, with Will Mather’s electric guitar kills it and Hugh Rashleigh’s trumpet evoking Tom Waits at his most cowardly. It’s awesome stuff, and producer Dave Lynch does a great job of giving each instrument, as well as the vocals, some leeway while keeping everything balanced.

When Feel this moment follows, it briefly reminded me of the Abbey Road running order, when blues to jazz to prog masterpiece I want you (she’s so heavy) precedes the unpretentious here comes the sun. Feel this moment begins as a simply selected acoustic tune, clearing the palate after the raucous John the Revealerbefore the strings and vocal harmonies color the accompaniment.

Another initially quieter song, Undulation of silhouettes, reminiscent of Mumford and Sons at their best before, after about a third a nice little cascade of notes and a mournful clarinet subtly alter the mood and give the song a new facade. This is just one example of the little touches and decisions throughout this album that make it such an interesting listen. Again, towards the end of the song, the string section have fun and briefly bounce off each other before the vocals get things under control again. It could have been played as a perfectly decent, more conservative song, but the rich arrangements and creative directions elevate it to a much higher level. The same could be said of Waves, which spends much of its time at a leisurely pace, with Jacob’s soft, slow vocals and soft, careful bass (again) and clarinet. The strings and trumpet slip in during the song, but it’s hesitant and careful, and it’s not until the last act, when we think the song is almost played, that the players come together for the final blow. It’s a lot of fun, with each member coming in for just over a minute and seeing the melody end with a burst of energy.

Continuing in this vein is the final song, Look at me, which begins with creaky, ominous bowed strings, forming an edgy backdrop, before Jacob rightly asks, “Where’s all the light?”. The menacing backing surrounds the vocals for a few more seconds before the mood turns into something altogether brighter, with a well-chosen guitar line backed by drums and subtle bass. This easy jazz arrangement carries the song through its ‘you saw me / look at me darling, look at me darling ‘ abstain for a few more minutes before the rest of the set chimes in to see the album come out. The strings wash again and the piano notes can be heard shimmering beneath them before the keys and clarinet are given some space to briefly dance together until the song ends noiselessly. As with much of this album, if even half the musicians are invited to the shows, this song will be an absolute delight to hear.

Every second step feels like a significant leap forward; he took the confident arrangements and musicianship from the debut album autumn anthem and extended it in all directions. Jacob’s deft fingerstyle guitar playing, influenced by musicians like John Martin and Martin Simpson, is still integral to the structure of the song, but the arrangements are more adventurous here, with strings and horns creating texture. Additional band mainstays John Parker and Jack Walker are stars throughout, with Parker’s bass notes creating varied patterns and a slinky, grown-up tone and Walker’s intuitive drumming adding deep foundation to already strong songs. It all comes in the form of a rich and exciting listen that has been lovingly curated and expertly handled. A winning album from excellent musicians who clearly love their craft, Every second step is an essential release.

Starting July 22, 2022, you can pre-order Each Second Footstep through Bandcamp:

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