Whispering Johnson plays "Roots" music. It's just that their roots are a bit twisted. A few years ago, Whispering Johnson - brothers Jim and Kurt Fricke on guitar and drums, and Oren Sreebny on bass - were playing primarily R&B and blues covers, happy in having finally mastered the arcane art of the formless Delta blues. Searching for a new challenge, Jim decided it was time to own up to his real roots - instrumental pop music of the '50s and '60s. See, Jim and Kurt grew up in Issaquah, not Clarksdale, Mississippi, and the records they heard around the house were Henry Mancini, Acker Bilk & Bent Fabric, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. For their next gig they played some old standards like "Alley Cat" and "Whipped Cream," and discovered that these songs touched their Northwest audience in ways that "Do the Do" and "I Can't Be Satisfied" couldn't approach. Jim promptly gave up his quest to write the great pop song and went back to his first love, writing little instrumental ditties. The repertoire is new, but the group isn't. Jim left his lounge-funk band in 1976 to join Oren's granola-rock collective Wet Paint. The group played around the Northwest until 1979, when Jim and Oren quit to form Art Object, a punk/no-wave group whose 1980 EP is now a highly sought-after collector's item. In 1980 they drafted Kurt into their next outfit, Eddie & the Atlantics. The Atlantics were staples of the early-'80s Northwest club scene, and continued to perform when Jim and Oren quit in 1983 to pursue higher education and real careers. The trio got back together in 1993, and recorded a demo of this material, included here as What Happened to the Noise? In 2004 the trio went back into the studio to record The Birthday Numbers. Currently Jim is residing in Milwaukie, Wisconsin having been lured away from Seattle to be the head curatorial person at the upcoming Harley-Davidson Museum. Oren and Kurt are still in Seattle, working on honing all of their wacky musical ideas and making sacrificial offerings to get Jim back in town.
For something that was written around birthdays, it ain't bad. I've heard some vanity projects by big, important people before, and this has true warmth and fun behind it.
Keep it up. I wonder what 80 will sound like?
Well, some would say: nothing new under the sun since Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery or Jim Hall, but the pleasure...
And what a pleasure !
A sweet and cool shuffle is enough to take us where the true thing stands : MUSIC IS, for the greatest and audible pleasure of all, from those who play it with that delightfull harmony, to those who are just listeners, minds sprinkling with notes and joyfull colors. The thrill is still perceptible long after the album's finished playing.
What to say, but -thank you for those delightable momments of music.