Sonoma Grown: John Courage & the Great Plains

A few weeks ago while sitting at my desk at The Last Record Store, some new music wafted through the air that caught my attention.
As I walked from the back room to the front of the store, I tried to guess who this splendid music was by. Amos Lee? Ryan Adams??
I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was the new CD by John Courage & The Great Plains.
Usually albums this good are released with more fanfare. John Palmer, who has been performing and honing his skills as a singer/songwriter over the last ten years or so as John Courage, had just handed off a copy of his new CD and left the building.
I have been following John Palmer for some time; in fact, many years ago he was cashiering at the Oliver's Market in Rincon Valley and I mentioned to him that I dug his music. What strikes me is that every time I have heard him play over the years, he sounds better than the previous time (a good trick!). The current musical payoff is this CD, titled John Courage & The Great Plains, named after his newest  band configuration.
What I love about this music is its timeless quality . It doesn't sound like 2012, 1999, or any other period. The diversity of the songs, and the thoughtful pacing of the album makes it hard to categorize. While it's easy to label something as “Americana” if you hear a pedal steel and acoustic guitars, JC&TGP is more complex. The best new music reminds you of music that you like, without sounding derivative. I am reminded of My Morning Jacket, Will Oldham and Neil Young when I listen to this album, sort of like how folks taste different flavors (berries, chocolate etc.) when they sip wine. The songs have great hooks, nice harmonies, rockin' drums, and the soft graveled voice of Mr. Palmer, whose thoughtful lyrics can be easily understood. The album, which was recorded in New Mexico, is a well produced, great sounding effort.
John Courage & The Great Plains perform at Oliver's Market in Cotati on Saturday June 23 from 3-5pm

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