John Allen describes himself as "yet another one of these bearded and tattooed singer/songwriters", but don’t be fooled by these words; his latest offering “Sophomore” holds some emotional depth that some acoustic artists would only dream of diving to. In this offering his lyrics are momentous, heart breaking and at times uplifting; it could just be the perfect antidote you need to break the January blues and actually reach out for those positive affirmations.
Opening track “New Years Eve” is in a league of its own compared to the rest of the album in its sense of fun and ridicule, it makes you want to jump among hay bales in the nearest barn, and can only bring a laugh with opening lyrics “the last day of December is just like every other fucking day of the year” before subtly moving into an anthem; “maybe this will be my year!” You could easily be fooled by this violin laden Irish folk track that this bloke is from those not too distant lands, but he’s actually from Hamburg with his inspirations growing from punk, indie and Americana music.
“Home” and “Freedom” are similarly up-tempo with the former holding some spectacular lyrics that will make your heart glow, but the album really hits its strength when it slows down and speaks matters of the heart. There is a gentle nod to the tone of City & Colour, and while he doesn’t have the soft vocals of Dallas Green, he has the compassion and the ability to tell stories of his weaknesses in a poignant manner. “It’s Raining Every Day” is one to have on hold if you’re recovering from a bad break up, with lyrics such as “I build up walls of hate, I build up walls of solitude, no-one will ever see me cry”.
“Blood Brothers” is a break mid album for a filled out track that unlike its predecessors seems more like a rehearsed and nurtured song than the off the cuff live performances that have been channeled before. With a dash of piano and a bigger percussion it stands out from the otherwise smoky rock songs that its sandwiched between, a true indicator that this is only the beginning of the journey for John Allen and his songwriting abilities.
Final track “Famous Last Words” is delicate, with tinkering piano against his softer vocal opportunities he gives more heart, he is willing to strip bare to his soul to give a more personable experience listening to his work rather than opting for just another forgetful folk album. What’s clear is that John Allen is a poet; he is a writer and more than just your average folk musician opting to tell stories from the heart with his rusty warm vocals that ensure you’re listening to a well travelled man sure of his statement. Whilst his voice isn’t his strength, his choice of words most certainly is and with some real gems on this album it is certain to say that things can only get better for this promising musician.
Review by Kat Bagshawe
We have done an 'Introducing' feature on John, this will be live from January 19th, check the INTRODUCING section from this date.