Surfer-turned-rocker Jack Johnson has composed songs for G.Love and Special Sauce, and is signed to Ben Harper's manager's record label, so it's no surprise that his debut turns out to be the kind of laid-back acoustic funk beloved of fans of both those outfits. What is surprising, however, is theunpretentious way these songs are presented--BRUSHFIRE FAIRYTALES is packed with bare-bones arrangements that highlightJohnson's catchy way with a lyric, so that when something unusual happens, such as the steel drums that dimly inhabit the background of "Flake", it's almost shocking.
Johnson'ssongs are simultaneously well crafted and executed in an almost throwaway manner. "Fortunate Fool" is airy yet acidic--this surfer dude is no airhead--while "F-Stop Blues", on thesurface a paean to the surfer lifestyle, is really a lamentfor wasted time that features Johnson's pleasant, lazy vocals to excellent effect. BRUSHFIRE FAIRYTALES displays the kind of insouciance born of innocence, almost as if no-one involved cared if the album sold ten copies or ten million--andof course that's the attraction.