Sides of the Soul
By Al Kaufman
John Milstead sounds so much like Marc Cohn that at any time you would expect him to start singing about putting on his blue suede shoes and boarding a certain plane to Memphis. But if your thing is gravelly-voiced, blued-eyed soul singers the likes of Cohn or Ray LaMontagne, you could do a lot worse than John Milstead.
Milstead sings with the heartfelt emotion and earnestness of a 13-year-old boy experiencing his first crush. While he may sing that he’s “got this love thing down,” the rest of this CD proves otherwise. He pines so hard on “Hold Me Like You Mean It” that you can see his puppy dog eyes through his voice. Even on his break-up songs, such as “I’ll Do the Same,” he imagines pleasant thoughts. He plays the rejected lover on “Your Crime,” in which the guitars are as angry as the singer. He’s spurned again on the first single, “Don’t Believe in Love,” in which he sounds like a teenager prone to hyperbole after his girlfriend dumps him.
Sides of the Soul suffers from an overabundance of mid-tempo rock ballads. The CD would benefit from more flourishes such as the reggae beat of “Hideaway,” or the joyous, drum-infused “Upsideout,” again about a boy totally and completely drunk in love.
One thing for sure is that this boy from Tupelo, Miss. has got it bad. He is either joyously in love or devastatingly out of it. But his passionate vocals never stray into kitschy, Michael Bolton Land. They feel as sincere as they do naive. This boy has loved and he has lost, and we are the grateful recipients of the results.
John Milstead plays Buffalo Wild Wings in Marietta on April 9.