Johnny Lloyd Rollins – Let’s Be Poor Together (2007)
purchase this album (CD Baby)
The cool kids — like Billy K., who recommended Johnny Lloyd Rollins to me last fall — will recognize this album’s artwork and title as belonging to a five-song EP that Rollins was shopping a couple of years ago, but don’t be confused; this is a full-length album, containing thirteen (well, really, twelve and change) persuasive arguments for Johnny Lloyd Rollins as international megasuperstar. I’ve had a copy for months, and I’m still not sure how to do it justice.
Rollins’ CD Baby writeup compares his music’s throwback charm to Tobey Maguire in Pleasantville, and though I prefer Reese Witherspoon in Pleasantville (or Reese Witherspoon in the first ten minutes of Twilight, actually), the analogy isn’t as poorly constructed as it sounds, especially during the album’s first couple of tracks, in which Rollins comes across as a guy with an extreme Sun Records fetish. If that’s as far as this album went, Rollins would be just as harmlessly dorky as Maguire — in Pleasantville or any other movie — but he’s got a wardrobe full of tricks up his sleeve; Let’s Be Poor Together is such a carefully crafted mash note to pop music in all its glory that it’s ultimately impossible to tell who, if anyone, he’s cribbing from most heavily. Check out his press clippings, and you’ll find comparisons to Orbison, Elvis, Lennon & McCartney, and Emmitt Rhodes, among others; personally, I like to think of him as sort of like David Mead without the soft spot for chamber pop.
Mead fans would do well to immediately purchase a copy of Let’s Be Poor Together, actually — Rollins has a similarly elastic voice, angelic falsetto swoops and all, and many of these songs wouldn’t be out of place on one of Mead’s less-produced albums. This is not to say Poor is a bare-bones affair, just that it doesn’t stray into kitchen-sink territory; the focus is always squarely on Rollins, and he never fails to let the songs speak for themselves. He’s been shopping the album to various labels, but Rollins should keep his own hands on the steering wheel — record companies haven’t known what to do with music this refreshingly timeless in years. There isn’t a bad song here, but at the moment, I’m partial to the title track (download) and the lovely “Blackjack” (download). Buy it, buy it, buy it.