The latest release out of Red Tree Studios is a nine-song pop package by a slacker named James Caronna, Everybody Wants to Be in Love. If you were to put James Blunt and Jason Mraz in the telepod in David Cronenberg's The Fly, James Caronna is exactly what you would come out with. Alternating between Mraz's boppy guitar and Blunt's melancholy piano stylings, Caronna hits all the high notes with a dedication to the kind of self-deprecating wordsmithery that makes up so much mainstream music these days. The production, as per Red Tree's usual, is slicker than slick, and truly radio-ready. Indeed, the concept of "radio-ready" is both the album's greatest strength and biggest detraction. On the one, very positive, hand is the soft appeal of tracks like "I'm Not Crazy," with its groove and stream-of-consciousness defense of the guitar-guy lifestyle. Or take the title track. It's a sweet Matthew Sweet plea to the heart of us all yearning for a bit of affection set to a solid bite of blues. If you want to play an album in the car on a first date that says, "Hey Baby, I'm the nice guy you've been going through all those dirtbags to get to," then you be hard-pressed to find a better one than Everybody Wants to Be In Love.
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But, on the other hand, when we say "radio-ready," we mean it's already on the radio in the forms of Jason Mraz and James Blunt. Like the aforementioned nice guy, there is little that is daring about the album. If this album had a hobby, it would probably be rock collecting. It has curves, but no edges. We're admittedly a little cynical an sin-stained here at Rocks Off, and maybe we're a bit past the point where something as unabashedly upbeat as James Caronna can reach our dark little hearts. But if you're one of those people out there who can still appreciate a simple bit of pop that's only message is the power between two people in love, then you willlove
this album.With Tim Qualls, 8 p.m. Friday, January 22, at Bohemeo's, 708 Telephone Rd, 713-923-4277 or www.bohemeos.com.