Johnny Daukes – ‘This Is The Road’

The new album from Johnny Daukes, This Is The Road is a compelling showcase in songwriting from the musician and filmmaker. Released with an accompanying short film of the same name, This Is The Road immerses in a range of anthemic rock and introspective folk stylings, intertwining with themes spanning from fatherhood and religion to environmental collapse, grief, addiction, and abuse.

“Dreams” opens the album with a hypnotic mesmerizing, as twangy guitars and ethereal vocals conjoin for a moving engrossment. The “might be a dream,” lyrical eeriness eases into a bouncy percussive addition, and the track gradually swells thereafter into the “can’t come back,” glowing finale, showing shades of The Stone Roses. “Atomised” follows with spirited piano, organs, and folk-ready acoustics — as the vocals sing of a sense of displacement. “A wave will come and wash it away,” they caution at one point, tonally leaning into a sound here reminiscent of The Auteurs.

Lead track “A Magpie Came Today” expands from outdoor ambience into an array of warming guitar jangles, ascending into a gorgeous “heart so wide,” chorus that resonates in its heartfelt yearning. A sense of loss is palpable throughout. Daukes describes the track as “my attempt to rationalise my brother’s pain after his son’s sudden death and to make some sense of the randomness of an all too common tragedy.” The jangling guitar tones and harmonious vocals conjure a sound akin to Teenage Fanclub, interwoven with personal lyrical insight and a compelling piano-forward bridge in the final minute. “A Magpie Came Today” is especially indicative of Daukes’ knack for powerful songwriting.

A sparser folk enthrallment shows on “Please,” where Daukes succeeds in a gripping structural evolution from the stately acoustical introspection into the pleading title-touting resonance; electric guitar tones join there, and a haunting wordless vocal effect immerses further in the bridge back into the verses. “The Road” is another stunner with similarly reflective allure, enveloping in its culmination of the album’s themes. “You put one foot in front of the other,” the vocals let out, emphasizing the importance of one’s personal story and journey. Bristling acoustics and forlorn piano complement alongside, as the vocal presence touts a chilling Elliott Smith-esque presence.

Closing the album, “Leave” infuses somber strings and captivating vocals — quite fondly reminding of The Clientele. Roaring guitars take hold at the mid-point, complementing an anthemic vocal outpouring; the triumphant escalation here and through this stellar finale is invigorating. This Is The Road contains a plethora of quality songwriting from Johnny Daukes.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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