Review in Brief: Long John - Johnny Keener

LongJohn.jpgI suppose Portland, Oregon-based Johnny Keener could do worse than taking the path Elizabeth Mitchell has blazed before him -- one part covers of old tunes, one part covers of new tunes, add a pinch of original stuff, stir gently. With a mix of rockabilly, blues, and modern pop, Keener further refines the gentle formula above, originally outlined on his debut Elephants Over the Fence (review).

What's new is the presence of a kids chorus on several tracks. At its best, the chorus enlivens old tunes, even giving Apples in Stereo's already-awesome "Energy" a tweaking that makes it a great kids' song. Keener's call-and-response with the kids on the title track shows off the chops he's honed at the Portland Children's Museum -- Ella Jenkins would be proud. (I also like the kids on Keener's original "Run Around.") The sound is perhaps a little fuller than the first CD, but there's nothing particularly fancy.

Which gets back to how things haven't changed. There's still some nifty guitar work (check out Keener's bluesy take on "The Cat Came Back") and covers that seem odd but make perfect sense (Cat Stevens' "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out.") The album isn't perfect -- Keener's cover of John Fogerty's "Down on the Corner" doesn't add much to the CCR original, and I'd like to officially put a moratorium on covers of "Three Little Birds" -- but it gets the job done. Oh, and the album packaging is one of the niftiest of the year, a simple yet elegant cardboard envelope.

Kids aged 2 through 6 will most appreciate the 25-minute disk, from which you can hear samples at its CDBaby page. Long John shows an artist maturing in his kids music vision, and it's a well-done collection of Americana-influenced tracks young and old. Recommended.