Forest Hill Drive
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 1999, Volume 6, #5
Written by John Metzger
Formed in 1992, Johny Vegas has been gathering steam with a grassroots effort that would make any independent artist jealous. The band has toured relentlessly behind its first two releases (Super Cool American and Dog), while building a loyal fan base all along the east coast of the United States. Johny is actually the first name of an old friend of lead vocalist Keith Calveric, and Vegas was Johny's nickname. When the group first got together, they played under this moniker, which has been with them ever since.
Johny Vegas is surely a band whose heart is in the right place. The group runs Music for the Needy, a not-for-profit organization benefiting the homeless. Johny Vegas has an annual Christmas food drive, where its gives away copies of a self-produced album in exchange for a food donation. Past giveaways have netted more than 4 tons of food, and the albums have included tracks from artists like Joan Osborne, Ani DiFranco, and G Love and Special Sauce.
Last year, Johny Vegas performed at the H.O.R.D.E. festivals in Toronto and Buffalo, and early this year, one of its songs — Waving from Super Cool American — appeared on the CBS television programs Promised Land and Touched by an Angel. All this has helped to fan the flames of this Northeast act's popularity, and it couldn't have happened at a better time: Johny Vegas has just released its third disc Forest Hill Drive. The album does travel across familiar ground that is frequented by the likes of Counting Crows, Hootie & the Blowfish, and Barenaked Ladies. It's not surprising then that like its predecessors, Johny Vegas turns the popular music of the '60s and '70s into the power pop bombast of the current decade.
From the brotherly mentoring of Brakeshoes to the search for release on Can't Get Loose, Johny Vegas concocts multi-layered tunes that blend tightly knit melodies with beautiful harmonies. Consequently, its songs compare favorably with the strongest material from Toad the Wet Sprocket.
Johny Vegas may still be searching for its own niche, but its enthusiasm lavishly bubbles over the top of its guitar-driven grooves. Forest Hill Drive may not be the best rock album of all-time, but the band's songs are simply too good to resist. The collection is commercial-friendly, roots rock at its finest, and you can't go wrong with that.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box