Bill Cummings 12/07/2005
“There are more flies here, than in the millennium….” whispers Johnathan Rice as he sits on stage, during a momentary pause between his well-worn alt-country ditties. Only days earlier he had supported REM at the Milliennium Stadium, this evening he plays to a hushed audience at the Cardiff Barfly. The problem that Rice faces Singer Songwriters are ten a dozen right now; to really stand out you need to be producing something truly unique or truly outstanding. Johnathan Rice is neither, however there are glimpses of the promise that led others to compare his songwriting to the diversity of Jeff Buckley and led those at Saddle Creek to work with him.
“The Acrobat” for instance is a nicely realised folk/country song with a nice melody, and the myriad of b-sides played occasionally prick my ears up, but elsewhere songs like “So Sweet” and “Behind the Frontlines” really wouldn't sound out of place on a OC soundtrack; in fact "So Sweet" featured on one. Singer-songwritery country folk can sometimes connect on an emotional level with an audience, but too often Rice sounds kind of languid and, well, dull. Strumming gently and croaking along a well worn path surely isn't enough these days when acts like Bright Eyes and The Decemberists continue to subvert the alt-country boundaries with their individuality. I'm sure Johnathan Rice will find a home in the heart of some, but tonight I'm left cold.
Photo: Sarah: Jonathan Rice Forum.