The guiding force behind Johnny and the Distractions circa 1980, Jon Koonce’s new release looks back on that time and his upbringing in Portland, Oregon.
Songs from the Little Village on the River is full of the garage rock that powered a generation; “When You Dance” features Beatle-esque guitars and harmonized vocals that’ll make any old rocker smile. Its guitar lines tip their cap to “Pretty Woman” and “Day Tripper,” while “Goin’ Out West” has a great lyric and cool vocal. Many of the solos are short, to-the-point, twangy, and stick to the ribs. “Something’s Gone” is a rock ballad in the best sense, using acoustic guitar as a backboard augmented by tremeloed electric. “Shake Me” brings to mind the Sir Douglas Quintet, with its jabbing organ, subtle rhythm guitars, and loud, melodic solo.
Throughout, Koonce captures the right feel, and closes with a nice version of the Link Wray classic, “Rumble,” which no doubt had a huge influence. It’s the perfect way to wrap this disc.
This article originally appeared in VG’s Sept. ’10 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.