John T. Baker
John T. Baker retreats almost completely from the idea of a band on his new solo CD, recorded at Baker’s home studio. Baker plays every note on the 11-track, 38-minute-long disc, aside from a little bit of help from the Westside Daredevils’ Gray Comer and ex-Swamis/V-Roys drummer Jeff Bills on the sugary power-pop track “Never Used to Have a Heart.” With its prominent rhythm and flourishes of guitar, electric piano, and eBow, that song, needless to say, stands out on Woodgrain; against its bright, energetic pop sheen, the rest of the disc (aside from the bouncy “Foreign Relations”) feels somewhat sleepy. Baker shows himself, as usual, to be a superb craftsman of guitar pop—the songs here are solid and sophisticated, with an undercurrent of sadness—and he’s more than capable performing them. But the spark that shines through “Never Used to Have a Heart” works against the collection as a whole, which might have benefitted from more outside assistance.