Fifth Time’s A Charm
Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm may be Will Johnson’s fifth album, but the extent of the singer-songwriter’s creative output can hardly be defined by solo pursuits alone. In fact, it’s difficult to grasp the full scope of Johnson’s career without meticulously searching in the shadowy, overlooked crannies of the indie, folk and alt-country scenes — those same hiding places where the most authentic, no-frills productions usually reside. With an impressive list of collaborators — including Conor Oberst, Jay Farrar, M. Ward, Jason Molina and David Bazan — Johnson has managed to stay as relevant and prolific as one can be without attracting mainstream attention. In 2014, Johnson withdrew from nineteen-year-old side project Centro-matic and focused on his solo work. Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm was recorded in under a week and is comprised of nine tracks that unravel unhurriedly within the mysterious, moonlit expanse Johnson forges.
The opening track, “Childress (To Ogden),” sets the tone for what’s to come — a haunted, acoustic-driven album, meandering along dark and winding paths carved out by a mournful pedal steel guitar. Compounded with Johnson’s husky, fluttering drawl, it’s enough to lull an insomniac. “Every Single Day of Late” is the black sheep of the tracklist, delivering an assault of bristling, distorted guitar and echoing vocals. Similar in content to “Heresy and Snakes,” the song alludes to religious hypocrisy. “Won’t you look me in the eye?” Johnson requests with quiet resolve during “Ruby Shameless,” a comparatively short, soul-baring song that lets Johnson’s vocals shine with only minimal instrumental accompaniment. The result is something surprisingly hypnotizing that ends much too soon. “Predator” picks up the pace with an uptempo melody and ethereal vocals that are in stark contrast with its introspective lyrics, which reference self-destruction. The title track,“Hatteras,” closes the album as it began — with an entrancing, almost eerie pedal steel ebbing and flowing seductively with Johnson’s hoarse whisper.
Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm is an aching, dreamy album that transports the listener to someplace barren, dark and starlit. Johnson has a knack for atmospheric instrumentals and reflective songwriting that combine to create something at once familiar and surreal. This album is one that should be listened to alone after the sun has gone down. Cathartic, calming and surprisingly refreshing, Johnson displays the confidence of an industry veteran without succumbing to complacency.