Joe Rohan,
These Days
(Off the Map, 2005)

Joe Rohan's These Days opens, simply enough, on the blue-toned but frothy "Desert Love." It's a bit fluffy, but Rohan's denim-comfortable voice and comfortable blues-rock style glide smoothly in to the deeper and darker thoughts of "Lovestruck Romeo."

With each track layering on new layers of complexity, Rohan's songs develop a magnetic pull. Each song becomes a little deeper, a little more complicated and a little more solid. "These Days" begins to take a definite form, with Rohan's blues tendencies coming through more strongly. By the midpoint of the album, Rohan's sometimes wild flights of feeling focus to laser sharp images and solid, fleshy women. The click of bootheels on deserted roads is almost audible in "James Dean," while "Angeline" swings harmonica hips in rocking rhythm to a hopeful lover's musical plea. "Cold Winter Day" wraps its slow blue notes around the bones and lifts the spirits towards a cold, watery light with the gospel call of a Hammond organ.

But just as Rohan's sound is at its bluest and deepest, his words achieving an almost physical solidity, he reverses the force of the album. "Pair of Horses" carries These Days back into the open sky, with a winding open tune that has more than a touch of wandering folk to it. "Ring of Fire" is what it has to be, a free, galloping tune barely held in check by its own insistent rhythm. "The Moon" ends the album back in the dreaming, malleable stream of consciousness territory where it began.

These Days is a hypnotic album with the dark lure of an unexplored cave and the unexpected pull of an undertow. Like a sweet romance with a melancholy ending in sight, it's hard to resist.

by Sarah Meador
18 February 2006

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