Johnny and the Moon is another offshoot of the ever-productive Wolf Parade crew. Where the music of Handsome Furs and Sunset Rubdown are sonic cousins to the Wolf Parade output, this time the lesser-known guitarist of the band, Dante DeCaro (former Hot Hot Heat guitarist), delivers an album right out from Folkway Records and Greenwich Village. Pre-Black Sheep Boy Okkervil River releases or Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions are the closest contemporary pieces of music which come to mind for musical similarities.
I’ll start right away with the stellar “The Ballad of Scarlet Town” (and “Scarlet Town Pt. II” picks up right where Pt. I left off) — a mandolin and percussion romp through the woods which goes through the various viewpoints of the people that live in town and the lives they want to live: “Well I am a troubled boy/ From the hills that you know/ And don’t tell me/ Don’t tell me where to go.”
This album is entirely down-home, and realizes and represents its influences’ rich heritage. “Johnny and the Devil” sounds like it could have come out of the Pete Seeger songbook, and in fact, “Green Rocky Road” and “Oleanna” are fresh takes of older traditional pieces of folk music. There is no fancy production or loud electric instruments, just lots of banjo, acoustic guitar, mandolin, chimes, bells, drums, and the occasional injection of subtle flowing noises for atmosphere. A good example of this type of production is “Little Red Cat.” It’s a great fast-paced piano-driven song about a sinister cat roaming around and terrorizing people, and the song ends with what may be an alarming outro for some listeners. I certainly didn’t expect a Piper At the Gates Of Dawn sound collage at the end of straightforward folk song, but it worked. This whole album worked very well.