John Common’s craft, going back to his days as the frontman of Rainville, has had a strong element of the conceptual. The songwriter says he wishes he could be a filmmaker or a painter and his approach to songwriting during his long career has revealed itself to be a carrying out of a concept or premise executed to give his songs and even his albums a connected resonance.
Common said the title of his new EP THE LOW WINES Vol 1 is “a reference to the unrefined part of the whiskey distilling process. The low wines aren’t trying to impress anyone. And they pretty much kill you or make you go blind if you drink them. They’re raw and unproduced and still becoming… but when you do them right, they turn into something beautiful.”
In the summer of 2018 Common said he gathered his closest friends and musical mates, filled his house with recording gear, guitars, lyric sheets, an audio engineer and a film crew, and more than their fair share of the aforementioned whiskey as the raw ingredients for accomplishing what one might expect to be a gritty set of rock and roll but which ended up as a deeply introspective recording session that lays bare Common’s uncommon sensitivity as a songwriter.
“The Moon and Me” starts the EP off with an ethereal, synth tone that might have been recorded on an old reel to reel or cassette recorder from a forgotten movie on an old television set. Then the guitar drifts in and Common sounds like he’s sitting adrift on a foggy night with only the moon to guide him through a time of personal darkness and confusion. When Jess DeNicola’s voice comes in for the harmonic duet the song remains desolate and captures a haunted sense of isolation. “Make It Real” and its acoustic guitar textures and the companion melodic drones of electric guitar work is reminiscent of Daniel Lanois’ luminous compositions. “You Ain’t Broken” waxes into more conventional songwriting territory while delivering one of the most powerful ending lines of the EP with “You ain’t broken, you’re just scared” in a great moment of clarity. A surprisingly delicate cover of “I Wanna Be Sedated” closes things out in a way that could be cheeky given the concept of the EP but with how vulnerable and brimming with emotional honesty the rest of the songs have been it is delivered with almost a sense of relief.
Though recorded live to reflect a sense of intimacy and spontaneity the element of sound design like one would expect from a film score with a keen ear for atmospheric elements truly creates a memorable listening experience that lingers long in the mind.