As genuine and inviting a song as you are likely to hear in our prickly times, “Joanna” flows with a melody so effortless I have to wonder why melody has so often left the building here in the 21st century. Isn’t it just this easy?
Well, no, I suppose it isn’t. As a matter of fact, I would suggest that the overwhelming challenge presented by melody has a lot to do with why we don’t encounter that much of it anymore—an unheralded side-effect, perhaps, of the Age of Instant Gratification. It’s so simple to make and distribute songs so quickly, why sidetrack the effort worrying about a potent melody? But I am digressing, when all I intend to do is salute the Austin trio Southern Boutique, whose collective gift for timeless craftsmanship should be the envy of their peers. And yet here is a band that struggles to crack merely 100 Facebook likes, and can’t offer me even one band photo to use with this review, as they don’t have any at all. I recently by the way read an article published on a music industry web site that claimed that any band with fewer than 1,000 Likes is “not worth paying attention to.” Me, I think people who write articles like that are not worth paying attention to. Aren’t we talking about who makes the best music here? Does that really not count anymore because The Internet? Okay, I digress again.
“Joanna” is almost too good to bother to describe, but if you want a handhold into its lo-fi-ish, ’70s-style country-rock brilliance, consider a few attributes. First, we have a 12-measure verse melody, which is often the sign of a mightily constructed song. And listen to how the verse gets extended into the 12 measures via lines that feel casually added on, starting around 0:29. Only really smart songwriters know how to do this. Next, listen to the mysteriously satisfying chord progression that drives the chorus (specifically from 1:05 to 1:10 the first time around), and listen to how the melody resolves while remaining entirely off the beat. Probably only smart songwriters know how to do this as well. And then, to show their know-how extends into all aspects of presentation, check out how they manage to slide the catchy part of the instrumental break all the way down to the bottom of the mix, as the song’s bouncy bass line, now sounding tuba-like, is here augmented by what may or may not be some very good-natured wordless vocals (listen to 1:45-1:50 specifically).
Southern Boutique rose from the dissolution earlier this year of the band Tiger Waves. “Joanna” is a song from the trio’s self-titled debut album, digitally released last month and available to listen to and download, in .wav format, via SoundCloud. While you’re at it, you can give them a like on Facebook too, if that’s your thing.