The rugged looks. The denim clothes. The moody countenance. At first glance, John Craigie looks like your garden-variety folk singer-songwriter — except maybe with a ’60s pop influence, based on the Herb Alpert-inspired cover of his latest album. But get past the front of Asterisk the Universe and you’ll find there’s much more to the Californian than meets the eye. While he certainly embraces the sort of intimate songcraft and sleepy vocals that often define his genre, he also peppers his songs with stylistic and sonic flourishes — lush soulful organ and piano here, jazzy Mose Allison touches there, contemporary lyrics everywhere — that make it clear he’s not getting stuck in any stylistic or sonic ruts. Though he is willing to take a detour into JJ Cale’s world with his spot-on rendition of Crazy Mama. So there’s more to him than meets the ear as well.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “A lot of life can happen over the course of one record. Lyrics immortalize those characters, exploits, and memories. On his 2020 Asterisk The Universe, John Craigie awkwardly encounters previous flames, mistakes a Catholic School custodian as a saint (and prays to him anyway), pays tribute to modern-day revolutionaries, and explores what it all means to live in the 21st century where infinite possibility does not necessarily equate infinite understanding. He soundtracks these stories with a score of smoked-out soul, tender folk, and American songbook eloquence billowing right from the heart of California. Progressing once more, the interplay of live drums and bass hold the music in the pocket as it simultaneously emanates an acoustic campfire glow. With these 10 tunes, his journey unfolds in between organic instrumentation and lyrical observation. “As with any album, I want the lyrics to be heard, first and foremost,” he exclaims. “This is pretty similar to other versions of who I’ve been and who I am. It’s just one with a fresh batch of songs I’ll add to my setlist and new stories to tell from the road.” In the end, Craigie’s story unfolds like never before on Asterisk The Universe. “I think the songs have a pleasant flow to them,” he leaves off. “I hope it brings them back for future listens.”