With, To, From

Jon Troast

Independent release, 2008


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


“I’m gonna be the president / The President of the United States of Me.”

So goes the chorus punchline of the kickoff tune from Geneva, Wisconsin singer-songwriter Jon Troast’s second album of 2008, the by turns cheeky and wistful With, To, From.  And what could be better summary of Troast’s easy-pleasy knock-you-in-the-back-of-the-head-when-you-weren’t-looking style than a tune (“I Want To Be The President”) that starts out feeling like a familiar complaint about the futility of politics and morphs in the space of a few spare lines into a surprisingly powerful affirmation of purpose.

The fact that this emotional sleight-of-hand takes place against the backdrop of yet another sweetly catchy melodic hook cinches the deal.  Yes, Troast sometimes gives off a strong beers-by-the-campfire Jack Johnson vibe, but the relaxed, breezy feel of many of his songs is just the teaser; the payoff is genuinely thought-provoking lyrics delivered with an effortlessness that ensures the messages never trip over their own earnest intentions.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This months-later follow-up to Troast’s terrific A Person And A Heart finds him once again working with producer Mitch Dane (Jars Of Clay), who fills out the arrangements with deft touches that lend a variety of colors and tones in support of Troast’s nimble acoustic guitar playing.  Nowhere is that truer than on the knockout “Wedding Ring,” the true story of how Troast’s mother sold her wedding band so that the family could afford to adopt his sister; the processed keyboard tones on the track sound like the chimes of a child’s music box, adding a fresh layer of poignancy to a song already thick with it.

A change here from Troast’s last couple of albums is a more explicit focus on spiritual issues.  But much like his brother-in-spirit Jon Foreman (Switchfoot), Troast manages to ask thoughtful questions and celebrate “the mystery of peace” without ever preaching or alienating those who may believe differently than he does.  That he can pull this off in the context of songs like the inspirational “Press On” and the searching “Does God Have A Bleeding Heart?” is no small feat.

Not that everything here is serious -- “Old Way Of Thinking” wraps its message in self-deprecating quips, and “Not This Battle” puts you squarely inside Troast’s mass-media-overstimulated brain -- but the overall atmosphere here is noticeably less playful and more purposeful than on Troast’s last two outings.  That this album still manages to steadily engage and entertain is a tribute to Troast’s skills and appeal as a storyteller.

Troast’s modest but loyal national fan base -- nurtured by a year-long run of house concerts and two full album releases in a matter of months -- has already snapped this one up.  So what’s your excuse?  It’s time to add With, To, From to your Christmas list.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Independent release, and is used for informational purposes only.