Bill Janovitz swings for the fences on Up Here, trading the electric pop bluster of his full-time gig with Buffalo Tom and the rootsy vibe of his solo debut Lonesome Billy for an attempt at eclectic singer-songwriter status. Emulating the likes of Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and Neil Young, Janovitz populates this album with different characters and varying musical styles.
“Atlantic” starts the album off with a bubbly electric guitar echo, giving way to acoustic arpeggios and Janovitz’s voice, a little more gruff than usual. “Best Kept Secret” is reminiscent of Young’s Harvest Moon persona, with a subtle arrangement of piano, guitar and lap steel. The title track is a somber tune with a touch of Spanish-inflected acoustic guitar.
Janovitz can move easily from country torch balladeer (“Half A Heart”) to folk storyteller (“Minneapolis”) without changing the basic focus on voice and acoustic guitar. He plays most every instrument on the album, with Phil Aiken adding the occasional organ part and Chris Toppin offering Lucinda Williams-like background vocals on two tunes.
Janovitz sometimes tries too hard to hit his mark with a forced lyric or strained vocal; when you’re swinging this hard, you’re bound to miss a few pitches. What ultimately shines through is his versatility as a songwriter and musician, and his sense for using simplicity to his advantage.