The music runs the gamut from college rock through adult alternative to whatever label can be applied to that created by those born on the cusp of Baby Boomers and Gen X, touching on folk, country and even avant-prog along the way. His voice combines Roger McGuinn twang with Peter Case smoke, a drawl as comfortable as a baggy wool sweater. With contributions from people better known as right-hand men for Frank Zappa and Brian Wilson, when it comes to six degrees, Kevin Bacon’s got nothing on this guy.
Kanis wrote all the songs himself, naturally, including such clever turns of phrase as “Where Is Joe Strummer When You Need Him?” and “It Is & It Isn’t”. The spirit of creation shines in a couple of collaborations from Steel Bridge Songfest, an annual collective songwriting festival. Others have pointed out how well “Dweller On The Threshold” evokes early Elton John, and we’ll add that it does so without a prominent piano. The lyrics are smart without being patronizing, and the instrumentals “A.C. In Michigan” and “The Return Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” aren’t just background music.
All-American Mongrel Boy is a testament to the so-called struggling musician working under the radar of fame and fortune, and an inspiration to anyone with talent to burn and songs nobody’s heard—yet. Chances are he’s written another pile of songs since publishing his book, so this could conceivably be Volume One of his archives.
Jon Kanis All-American Mongrel Boy (1989-2014) (2014)—3½