Album Review

Kevin Johnson & The Linemen - Parole Music

Kevin Johnson & The Linemen - Parole Music

On their third album, Washington, D.C., band Kevin Johnson & the Linemen play more of the smart, twangy pop that has earned them comparisons to everyone from Marshall Crenshaw to Buck Owens. The first six songs on Parole Music are as good a start as you could ask for, with melodic tracks such as "Miss Lonelyhearts Out On The Town" and guitarist Scott McKnight's "Written On My Heart" bracketing "She Changed The Country Station" and "The Killer Pillow", two of Johnson's finer compositions. The former begins: "She changed the country station back to rock 'n' roll/she didn't want to hear the sad ones any more," set to a gentle steel guitar and a sad, shuffling beat. "The Killer Pillow" is a story of a drifting relationship, with the protagonist watching as his baby spends more and more nights holding the pillow and turning her back to him. These songs, though funny, are more than mere novelties, possessing a wistful, Larry McMurtry-esque, "look-how-life-turned-out" kind of humor. Throughout, the Linemen hang an easy Americana groove, often adding steel and mandolin accents to Johnson's richly phrased vocals. There aren't many weak moments to note. The strong start makes the back side of the disc look weaker than it really is, and though one must admire the taste in covers, a version of Townes Van Zandt's "Buckskin Stallion Blues" adds less than expected. Those are minor details, however; Parole Music deserves to be the record that gets Kevin Johnson noticed by a wider audience.