Ivas John was on a mission with “Good Days A Comin” to make a meaningful all-acoustic fourth album. Well, the immense old-soul talent, and the relaxed, warm feeling that fills the room with every song shows he’s achieved his goal wildly.
Just to be clear — all-acoustic does not mean solo. Delivered with rich, ample accompaniment, the players here — drums, bass, mandolin, the whole nine yards — make as much of a Technicolor splash on the proceedings as the song craft does. These are all great songs, and the majority of them are his, along with a few key covers.
Where on earth did this guy come from? A first-generation Lithuanian immigrant born in Chicago, Ivas John’s dad drove a truck back in the ’60s and many a night played the Chicago folk circuit after he pulled in. In the process, he turned young Ivas onto all kinds of music. Their tight father-son connection plays out in four diverse collaborations on the new album. In “Here I Am,” they portray good clean fun, Delta/Appalachia-style. For “Things Ain’t Been the Same,” they dialed it down appropriately low. Confronting a broken soul, Ivas sings the song with polished grit, and the simple guitar, dobro, and standup bass provides the perfect dusty, blues-imbued landscape.
Ivas plays finger style and flat-picked guitar with impressive dexterity and impeccable taste, and he couldn’t sing any more naturally and convincingly. Just listen to him pull off Merle Travis’ “Dark as a Dungeon” as if a blackened coal miner himself at a dingy saloon after a long stretch, some eight decades ago. On the bright side, he conjures a crystal clear vision of pure, fiddle-filled and jazzy country music like it was in the heyday of Chet Atkins on “Roll Mississippi.” That one may be the best song on an album from which it’s very hard to to pick the best song.
The heart of historic American music pumps with renewed vigor inside this man. Buy this widely appealing album immediately.
— Tom Clarke
“Good Days A Comin”
Release: June 3, 2016
Label: Right Side Up Records