Some things never go out of style, and among them, the soft melodies of a good folk song stand out. Chris St. John knows that in this ever-changing time in the history of Americana, utilizing something both tried and true can have tremendous benefits if you know what you’re doing, which he clearly does in the new single “A Box for Jewels.” Unlike a lot of hybrid alternative content to make headlines on both sides of the underground in the past year, “A Box for Jewels” isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, or even change the particulars of a familiar model in Americana. This is a boon to the traditionalists, and for this critic, it’s one of the best organic folk songs you can check out this summer.
St. John is using the tempo to control all of the catharsis in this single, but rather than this producing a languid climax, it works to spread out a lot of the tension otherwise concentrated around the chorus exclusively. There’s something quite moving about a song that endears itself to us so quickly out of the gate, as though it were waiting for us to scoop it up in our arms like a parent would a child. Love songs have become an almost jaded expression of angst for the majority of pop songwriters around these days, but not this man. His narrative is simply reaching out for anyone who will shelter it from a storm of doubt, and in a time of such rampant social discourse, its hesitant hue makes it even more humanized and relatable.
This track is sporting a much fatter bottom-end than it actually needed, but I can understand the reason for this if the goal was to create a live feel for the music. Chris St. John isn’t overextending the physicality of the tones in this song so much as he’s trying to emulate the rich experience of being in an intimate live setting where we can literally feel every inch of sonic space filling up in the air around us. It’s a little brash but certainly not anything I would count against “A Box for Jewels,” which is by far on the more well-rounded side of what I would usually encounter in a release from an unknown in the industry.
Let’s be honest – too many American folkies are understating their melodic wit and wisdom, and right now, it’s really all their genre needs to stay afloat amid the growing interest in a singer/songwriter revival. If there’s one thing that we can learn about Chris St. John just from listening to his work in “A Box for Jewels,” it’s that he isn’t the sort of folk artist who wants to bleed his sound dry of the fundamental whims we all fell in love with years ago during the last wave of credible solo acoustic players to take on the charts. He’s got my endorsement not only as a professional critic but as someone who has been hungry for the harmonies of yesteryear sans the cringe-worthy camp that comes with a straight-up throwback.
The music of Chris St. John has been heard all over the world in partnership with the radio plugging services offered by Musik and Film Radio Promotions Division. Learn more musikandfilm.com