John David Schrader – 21 Summers Album Review
John David Schrader is a guy that has turned his negative into a positive and leeches on to any opportunity to uplift others especially through music. I remember finding out about John with Producer/Songwriter David Mobley when I met him digitally a year or so ago. David was really cool and inspirational to meet. He’s on the list of people I’d like to meet in person someday. David works with John and together some incredible things have happened. This multi-instrumentalist/producer/songwriter from Kingston, New York has an appropriately titled album entered into the 59th Annual Grammy Awards with a lot of praise. 21 Summers is looking like a strong contestant according to the positive feedback from the Grammy voting members in The Academy.
I often wondered where in the world the music in these award shows come from because in nearly every case I’ve not heard of many of them. Perhaps it’s where I live here in Kentucky as a lot of radio stations here are mainstream playing mostly Major record label artists. I don’t think there’s a true modern rock station at all. This is sad because on the East and West coast and as close as Philadelphia and Chicago a vast array of great musicians exist. So it was cool to be honored to review this album. The title itself, 21 Summers, gives me hope that I will be beating my foot for a while. Being a potential Best New Rock Album and Best New Alternative Music Album gives me high hopes, especially since about 2 years ago he was accepted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
So here I am with a guy whose instrumental skills go far beyond guitars, drums and bass. He can do wind instruments, brass instruments and I bet he even belches in different octaves. Under his belt is a degree in media production including film/audio/video production/post-production, has his own recording studio (JLS Sound) and scores instrumental music for tv and film with his Bugbird Productions company. Add to this his own publishing company, Mahmnic Music Publishing and an ASCAP award winning member and how in the world would I pass up an opportunity to review his latest album?
Some may wonder why I don’t go into detail about his victory over cancer. Personally, I believe that is fantastic news but I prefer to see John as an equal not allowing sympathy for a disease to cloud my judgement. I’m very glad he beat it because his musical prowess belongs in the world, especially nowadays where the production style on 21 Summers has been missing for about 2 decades. So, to be clear, I am reviewing this artist and this album based on the musicianship and song quality, not based on his once upon a medical condition.
Now that I have this juicy intro done I have high expectations. I wondered if this music would be as popular as Chad Kroeger or The Eagles but since it was entered into the Grammy Awards it’s probably more like American Idol stars that are super popular all over the place after the show is over but you never really personally heard anything by them. Also, with John David Schrader having his own studio and producing his own music with David Mobley it probably will not have that modern, over produced sound you get with huge record labels. This makes me think I will hear a more raw version that will focus on the emotions being conveyed.
With a title like 21 Summers I went into the review process expecting music that was a bit mainstream but not loaded down with heavy, low toned guitars and complaints about mental issues from being wronged. I had the mindset that at least most of the songs would want me to keep going, like a road trip to a fun destination or a 5 day vacation on a beach. Was I going to get that from this Grammy reaching recording artist or should I have stayed at home and stared out the window simply dreaming and not taking any action? Let’s find out.
I started this critique by reviewing each track individually but had to stop halfway through because I found a lot to like. It’s tough to really tout every song on an album, especially one with 15 tracks. For my tastes that is a rarity. 21 Summers, for me, did contain a couple skippable songs but about a dozen of them were good. Better yet, most of them are worth listening to again a bazillion times.
As I listened I was reminded of so many memorable artists mostly from the 1990’s era where quality of the composure wasn’t layered with levels and levels of thickness. What I mean is this sounds nothing like modern produced music that you hear on mainstream radio with the hard rock and heavy rock bands. It also doesn’t sound like the old classic rock stations nor alternative rock from Seattle. What I found was nods to the style of Don Henley, Brian Adams, Gin Blossoms, Better Than Ezra, Collective Soul and even Chris Daughtry popped into my head. John David Schrader actually did pull off making you feel like this was a summertime album loaded with hits. From fun guitars and grooves with the excellent song Lullaby to flat out fun to sing to songs such as Lose and One More thing I was hooked! Let me touch base on a few of the many noteworthy songs of this masterpiece.
Thick As Blood was a really good song providing a side step from sunshine with lyrics that the deep thinkers can appreciate. Another lyrically well done song was No Hero and this was maybe my favorite as it had that summertime, windows-down-hang-your-head-out feeling. Or was Not Satisfied my favorite? Man, it’s tough to say now.
I Don’t Mind and One Day provided that summertime beach feeling and, in all honesty, the sun blazed throughout the album with a nice finishing touch we all can relate to, Fucking Hate You.
All in all 21 Summers was nearly a hit after hit all the way through. I loved at least 11 of the songs. The fact that I’m a fan of bands that pull off this feeling such as Collective Soul, Don Henley and Gin Blossoms is just icing on the cake. I’m not sure if the production quality was intended to remind people of those summertime album hits of the 1990’s but it really does give that sunny outdoors feeling. The songs might not have made such an impact if it was produced differently so kudos on that! However, some might find this production style a little outdated and if you’re one of those people reading this who are into mainstream music only you truly are missing out. You’ll easily find smart lyrics, melodies to sing along to, beach party atmosphere, windows-down road trip feelings and more if you give it an honest listen. This is definitely an album I will listen to more. With a lack of mild, summertime rock that allows you to breathe and feel like having fun in how you spend your personal time nowadays, 21 Summers needs to be in your collection. This guy gets a Grammy nod from me simply because I feel way better than I did before listening to this album and I have about 11 new favorite songs in my life. Thanks John David Schrader for empowering me to enjoy my transition from summer into fall and the years to come! I look forward to more of what you and David Mobley churn out!
- Daniel C. Morrison – Founder Hip Rock Magazine/Daniel Digs It