Attention Plumber and Pipe Fitter Union No. 203, and other similarly situated music fans: You have a new working class hero. No, No, ultra rich, out of touch, Bruce Springsteen didn’t release another record. Neither did John ‘Cougar’ Mellencamp, or Tom Petty. No, on August 27, Phoenix based artist Hunter Johnson drops his debut LP “Miles and Miles,” and it’s pretty great.
Miles and Miles is a fantastic no frills rock record that impresses both on its own and as the debut offering from up-and-comer Hunter Johnson. Most of the tunes fall into a similar sonic territory as the above named classic rockers, but Johnson’s songwriting, and the albums sharp no-nonsense production (the album was produced by Bob Hoag) keep the record sounding honest, and fresh.
From start to finish, Johnson’s writing on Miles and Miles shows incredibly maturity both lyrically and structurally–this guy clearly knows how to pen a tune for radio airplay. The stories and characters on Miles and Miles appeal to a wide audience yet still leave room for listener interpretation. Song parts fit together seamlessly, and nothing ever feels out of place within a tune or from track-to-track. Everything on this record just fits and flows which is no small feat–especially for a debut.
Take, for example, “So Long Suzy,” the album’s rocking opener, which tells the story Johnny, whose tough as nails girlfriend is pressuring him for a ring. Johnny of course isn’t caving to her pressure, and while his predicament isn’t exactly unique, Johnson’s no-nonsense storytelling and gravely vocals keep the tune sounding fresh, as chunky guitars and heavy drums blast the tune forward.
Next up, “The Younger Me” recounts the regrets of of an older man as he looks back on his life. The tune, with its pedal steel licks and “everyman” storyline, would feel right at home coming out of a Nashville studio. But despite the pedal steel licks and witty lyrics, Johnson keeps the tune squarely in rock territory by avoiding cheesy country inflection on his vocals and refusing the temptation overproduce the track. “You Ain’t Seen the Best of Me” is another rockin’ tune Nashville wishes it had written. It’s a straight-forward tune recounting the narrators past accomplishments (which include high school football and fishing), while promising his lover that the best is still yet to come.
Rockers aside, Miles and Miles also showcases Johnson’s versatility both as a songwriter and vocalist with ballads like “Runaway,” a classic heart break tune and “Miles and Miles,” a traveling tune about longing to gett back home.
The most impressive aspect of Miles and Miles may be Johnson’s ability to combine classic rock production, with clever Nashville approved lyrics, while still managing to sound fresh and unique. The result is an album that’s just a lot of fun from start to finish. It’s the type of record that you turn up with the windows down on a summer night. And Miles and Miles gets you there the old fashioned way– rockin’, well-written American rock ‘n’ roll. An impressive debut from a great new artist.