Album Review

Johnny Schaefer – Acoustic Remedy

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Don’t let the fading childhood photograph of singer/songwriter Johnny Schaefer’s Acoustic Remedy album trick you into thinking this is some kind of safe unplugged outing. No, there’s nothing on the record that even hints of sonic dissonance; however, Schaefer’s wild eclecticism easily makes it among the year’s most refreshingly original efforts, a fiercely independent vision that refuses to compromise for the purpose of easy commercial accessibility.

Given the emotional depth of his singing and the strength of his lyrical content, it becomes quickly obvious that Schaefer’s genre hopping isn’t a case of executing it for its own sake. He is simply an artist with a passion for various styles of music, and he will not allow any boundaries to limit his creative scope. The moving “April Fool” is a tale of how cultural clashes can tear into romantic relationships. The song’s hybrid of folk, Latin, and jazz echoes its theme of acceptance of ethnic differences.

Elsewhere, Schaefer explores his artistry with no regard to categorization. “Closer Than You Think” is throbbing synthesized pop while “Time to Cry” is soulfully performed Easy Listening. Just when the R&B pulse of “So Cold” seemed to stabilize Schaefer as a purveyor of adult pop, albeit on the adventurous side, arrives “Invocation,” a stunning combination of New Age atmospherics, chanting, and a spoken-word prayer from Marianne Williamson. Inventive and absolutely unique, Acoustic Remedy epitomizes how daring and fascinating music can be when the rulebook is tossed out.