Hans Rotenberry & Brad Jones, Mountain Jack
The family tree of this project may already be familiar to roots enthusiasts who also happen to follow Tennessee power-pop, but as for the rest of us, what a pleasant surprise! Hans Rotenberry has been front-dude and guitarist/songwriter of Nashville-area rock stalwarts The Shazam for a dozen years or so (hint: Shazam is the title of The Move's third album), and Brad Jones is the Nashville-area producer who has worked with the likes of Matthew Sweet, Jill Sobule, and Imperial Drag (as well as producing Hayes Carll's stellar Trouble in Mind) who produced three or four Shazam records. Hard to say how they came to create Mountain Jack as a duo, Rotenberry and Jones, but the result is that word that too often gets applied to hooky pop: infectious. There. We said it. Thing is, while the sing-along songs and satisfying chord changes are familiar from Rotenberry's earlier work (the Shazam catalog is well worth checking out), this set has a deep reverence for southern roots even while having fun with 'em. It's got twang, but it rocks. "Froggy Mountain Shakedown," the album's most charming track, may have served as the album's impetus (given how many times the phrase "Mountain Jack" appears), and it's a hoot—and there is a banjo on it, as well as some respectable pickin'. The rest invokes an influence here and there (The Traveling Wilburys on "A Likely Lad," the Stones on "Greef"), but there's a winning individual personality to the whole thing that kinda demands repeat listens. Many repeat listens, in fact. Still not convinced? Give "Buffalo Daughter" a whirl and see if it doesn't turn your head.