If you heard the words “Johnny and the Moon,” you would likely think little of it; if anything, you might realize that it bears a strange resemblance to Johnny and the Moondogs, the former name of The Beatles. You would learn little more from looking in the case of the new self-titled Johnny and the Moon CD (released Oct. 24 in Canada). The only band information given is the names of the members: Johnny, Lindy and Mark. A little myspace research would tell nothing new, except that Mark’s name has apparently changed to “Big Juicy Papa.” However, eventually you will find that “Johnny” is actually Dante DeCaro, whom fans of the Canadian indie scene might recognize as the guitarist formerly of Hot Hot Heat and currently in Wolf Parade. Indeed, Johnny and the Moon is actually DeCaro’s new side project, for which he has enlisted the help of Lindy Gerrard and Mark Devoe. DeCaro’s hidden identity, as well as the reference to The “pre-fame” Beatles seems to represent DeCaro stepping backwards, out of the spotlight.
The album itself is a step back in time, as it is a part of the resurgence of banjos, harmonicas, mandolins and banging on any and everything that has been quite successful this decade. It is pure-folk at its core, with acoustic instruments strummed and plucked to enthusiastic rhythms, wavering vocals that are flawed with the authenticity that we all crave, and percussion that will make you want to join in by banging your pencil on the heater in your room. Keyboards and electronic sounds are subtly mixed in at times. Thus, what sets Johnny and the Moon apart is that instead of bringing folk to indie-rock, they bring a hint of modern day indie to the music of the mountain men.
The first track of the album, “Green Rocky Road,” was originally written in 1961 by Robert Kaufman and Len Chandler, and has been recorded by several artists since; it is a timeless folk masterpiece and a fitting way to start things off. The next track, “Kid Heaven,” stands out from the rest of the album, as electronic chiming and percussion back up the vocals. Until a harmonica part at the very end, it is very modern in sound. Somehow, this song does not clash with the rest of the album; it has a hypnotizing effect, which is then broken by the guitar strumming and howling vocals of “The Ballad of Scarlet Town.” Johnny and the Moon goes on to musically convey images of songs being sung in saloons and played on porches.
Johnny and the Moon’s debut album is very simple in structure, which may cause some to dismiss it as an amateur effort; however, the unchanging rhythms are effectively reminiscent of the music of an earlier era. Those looking for a Hot Hot Heat or a Wolf Parade sound out of Johnny and the Moon will likely be disappointed. On the other hand, if you have ever wanted to gather a group of musically talented friends with guitars and banjos in order to play around a campfire, this album is for you.