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JIM AKANS

Coaster
Rating: 5
   It’s been creeping up on me for some time, but I’m now officially an old fogy. See, I was down at the park with Abe, and some teenagers there starting cursing. So I ASKED THEM TO WATCH THEIR LANGUAGE! Egad.
   Teenagers cursing! What’s this world coming to? It’s just this sort of reactionary thinking that has me reviewing a local musician you’ve never heard of, when it isn’t even a bribery review. Jim Akans hails from Novi, Michigan (about 30 miles upstream from me) and never even played in bands as a kid. It wasn’t until he was in his late thirties that his wife pushed him onto the stage and into the studio. Not that he’s had a lot of success – I picked up this 1997 CD when he left a pile of them to give away free at the local Music-Go-Round. But he’s still out there (check out his website) playing and recording his own brand of rather well-worn classic rock stylings.
   Anyway, I can’t really say Coaster is particularly good, but it is very comfortable. In a world full of innovations from musical (I lost track of hip-hop around Mama Said Knock You Out) to technological (somebody sent me an mp3 today; am I supposed to know what to do with it?) to political (I just can’t unwind the tangled justifications of the Bush administration fast enough to avoid getting caught in the next loop), it’s good to wallow in some predictability.
   Akans gets a great production job from Jade Scott, with a crisp, clean mix and lots of neat touches (the low piano chords in “Girls Gotta Talk”, the simulated 78-rpm sound of “Legend”), and he’s not a bad guitar picker. His band glides along smoothly too, and the backing vocalists do their best not to outclass his rather limited singing.
   And that’s why the music feels so nicely familiar. It’s soothing to my jangled soul, but not in a muzakky way. Take that glorious old groove in “Girls Gotta Talk” – everyone since Johnny Rivers has been locking in the bass on the one and three, but it never fails to sound nice and easy and a little sexy. Or that high harmonica whine on “Rain All Night” – even Jimmie Rodgers knew it signifies loneliness, but what the hell, it still works.
   The melodies are all off-hand (not necessarily stolen, but just what you’d expect given the chords), the lyrics thoughtful but unpoetic looks at life and love, the grooves classic rock rhythms. Just right for when you don’t want to process anything new but rather get in touch with what moved you when you were young.
   Jim Akans has produced a thoroughly mediocre record that nonetheless remains a favorite of mine. Go figure. And WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE!

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