Grownass Man isn’t pushing musical boundaries, but that was never its intention. It’s just a fun and well-executed ode to the blues, lost love, brews and your crew.
There is a rich and storied tradition of musicians coming together in so-called “supergroups”, to varying levels of success (see The Traveling Wilburys, Monsters Of Folk, NKOTBSB, etc.). Last year Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Phil Cook of Megafaun and Brian Moen from Peter Wolf Crier/Laarks reformed under their Shouting Matches guise to release their debut album, seven years after playing their first show together.
The result, Grownass Man sounds like Creedence cracked a couple of brewskis with Chet Atkins and then Taj Mahal showed up for the party. As the album’s cover illustrates, it seems like a fun jam project for the three mates – they’re not re-inventing the wheel, they’re just going back to their roots and having fun with it. The album does showcase a different kind of vocal from Vernon though, his voice drops back to a howly, gravelly bluesman and it’s a nice change from the ethereal falsetto, which only creeps in briefly.
‘Gallup, NM’ is an organ-driven trip down a dusty road to a dead-end town, and ‘Heaven Knows’ has ubiquitous Black Keys-esque distortion all over the guitars and vocals – it’s not a bad thing, but it’s not revolutionary either. ‘New Theme’ pulls the organ back in for a blues-funk fusion that gives a much-needed injection of brevity to the latter end of the album, before ‘I Need A Change’, the least outwardly harsh breakup song in a while, wraps things up. The lyrics still cut like a knife, but it’s damn lovely.
*** out of five stars
BY NATALIE AMAT
Grownass Man is out now on Middle West/The Planet Company.