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Looks Like Up

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Album Review

Some people have a hard time appreciating subtlety, restraint, and understatement — that's why many New York jazz critics of the 1950s didn't understand cool school greats like Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, and Lee Konitz. Those guys didn't shout to get your attention, and the journalists who dismissed them expected shouting. John Train doesn't shout either; if Looks Like Up was a jazz release, it would probably be labeled cool jazz. But this Philadelphia band doesn't provide jazz; its forte is a twangy, country-influenced style of folk-rock, and the Pennsylvanians use subtlety to their creative advantage throughout this appealing CD. Because the songs tend to be understated and unassuming, those who expect music to shout at them might fail to realize how meaty and substantial Looks Like Up is. But make no mistake: Singer Jon Houlon (who wrote all of the material) brings a lot of depth and vulnerability to his songs — many of which have a world-weary, cynical outlook. Tunes like "Did You Come By Your Bitterness Honestly?," "Misery Loves Company," and "If I'm Gonna Get Blamed" don't sugarcoat things; Houlon takes an honest, realistic look at relationships, and he doesn't pretend that happiness is always going to prevail. Houlon never gets in your face, but that doesn't mean that he isn't expressive — and it doesn't mean that he doesn't get his points across on this memorable, heartfelt CD.


Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s

With songs that reflect a twangy, melancholy, country stride encased in a folksy, bluegrass rhythm, John Train, a Philadelphia quintet, holds to its own integrity and doesn't need to be loud and brassy in order to be heard. Picking its moniker from the legendary Phil Ochs' pseudonym from the '60s and '70s, the band began forming in 1995 when Jon Houlon (songwriter and vocalist) met Mike Brenner (dobro and guitar), who was playing for Low Road and Marah. The duo started playing gigs around Philadelphia...
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Looks Like Up, John Train
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