By DAN MACINTOSH
Gabriel Johns, who goes by just Gabriel, sings from the heart throughout his six-song EP Love Lives Here.
The project opens with “Another Night,” a song simply celebrating survival. Over a stripped-down light rock groove, Gabriel sings about a sleepless night where even a spontaneous evening walk can’t help him get any shut-eye. The song expresses hard-won optimism, though, in that – even while circumstances try to argue otherwise – Gabriel enthuses, “I’m okay/Something good is coming my way.” The lyric is about determination where, as Bruce Cockburn once put it, you sometimes have to “kick at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight.” This song is the sound of Gabriel kicking hard against that darkness.
Gabriel Reveals His ‘Inner Skeptic’
Even the project’s one clear love song, “Baby It’s You,” finds Gabriel fighting his inner skeptic. In this case, his heart is arguing with his accumulated doubts over whether he’s finally discovered true love. Sonically, Gabriel amps up the groove with a driving electric guitar part as he somewhat reluctantly confesses to finding unexpected romance.
‘Boy with a Gun’ Asks Why
The album’s best track, though, is “Boy with a Gun.” On the recording, producer Loren Molinare subtly adds keyboards into the song’s guitar-driven mix, while Gabriel expresses what many of us far too often feel about school shootings. “He feels he has nothing left to lose/He picks up a gun he starts to shoot,” is followed by, “oh why, oh why, oh why?”
This is not some knee-jerk, call for gun control, even though Gabriel may be an advocate for more weaponry restrictions. Rather, Gabriel is echoing the feelings we all experience whenever the latest shooting story hits the newswires. ‘Why is this happening again?’ he seems to be asking. ‘Why is violence this the only answer this poor, confused boy could find?’ It’s a sincere, empathetic and pained response to a scenario that have become all too common these days.
Gabriel: ‘Take Me to Heaven’
“Take Me to Heaven” is like a continuation of “Boy with A Gun,” in that Gabriel wakes up to yet more bad news on the radio. And it frustrates him. He angrily rants, “So sick and tired now!” This longing for a better world reminds one of the old Star Trek bumper sticker: “Beam me up Scotty, there’s no intelligent life here.’ It’s not clear just what bad news has set off Gabriel’s bad mood, but there’s so much bad news, it really could have been just about anything. Once again, though, Gabriel does a fine job of tapping into some universal emotions; we all long for a heavenly escape hatch every now and then.
Gabriel closes with “Who’s Life Is It Anyways,” which is a punk-folkish rant against the way the modern world sometimes makes us feel like we have no control over our own lives. On this track, the guitar rock track is colored by harmonica. It’s an appropriate way to close out and a set of songs that finds Gabriel pushing back against a seemingly overwhelming negative tide. Yes, Gabriel knows these days can sometimes seem impossibly dark and foreboding. However, he’s not going to let this environment define him. It’s as if he is saying, even though he may go down, he will never go down without a fight. And Gabriel will always have a fight as long as love lives here.
Gabriel: All Vocals, and Rhythm Guitars
Loren Molinare, Guitars
Paul Ill, Bass, Keyboards
Tony Matteucci, Drums
All songs written by Gabriel, except for “Take Me To Heaven” and “Sunset” written by Gabriel Johns and Loren Molinare
Engineered by Patrick Burkholder at Pawnshop Studios