Johnathan Rice’s smoky voice sounds nothing like a 65 year old man’s as he claims, though it might pass for that of a Jeff Buckley protâˆšÂ©gâˆšÂ©. This young Scottish-American is making a splash here in the States, touring non-stop to promote his upcoming album Trouble is Real. It’s hard to predict trouble for this young troubadour, though.Rice claims he tried to make a record that speaks to every musical influence that inspires him, and every genre that he enjoys. This is probably why Trouble is a unique listening experience, with something new around every corner. It is an eclectic soundscape, ranging from the sultry and poppy “So Sweet” to the folk-laden, record-hissing “Put Me In Your Holy War.” There are rockin’ electric guitars on “Salvation Day,” a classical orchestra playing on “Short Song For Strings,” and acoustic solo guitar on “The Acrobat,” to name a few of the varying flavors used.
Rice’s vocal style at times sounds like a cross between John Mayer’s husky tone and Bob Dylan’s accentuation. He layers it skillfully over the versatile songs; soft and strong over the acoustic guitar work, evenly over the pop elements, and lightly over the folk songs.
As the music travels through a multitude of styles and rhythms, Trouble feels anything but stodgy and predictable. The experience may be refreshing for those who feel stifled with the typical pop and rock releases of late, however the album may lack cohesiveness for those who prefer a smooth experience as the gears between styles shift fairly radically.
Despite its diverse nature, overall Trouble is Real shows a great deal of talent for such a young musician.