John Welton & The Awakening is a band recently brought together by their pure love for music and the desire to spread this passion to others, with its current lineup of members formed in 2019 and led by guitarist and vocalist John Welton. Almost everyone in this seven piece band contributes to the vocals, including John’s lovely lady Lyndsey Stropkey, and the addition of trombone and a second guitarist lends for a blissful layering of sound best suited for barefoot dancing on a hill at a festival with dandelions in your hair. Though this album reached my ears in one of the coldest weeks of the year in my area–the sweet sunshine of this album warmed my heart as I’m sure it will warm yours.
The album, aptly named 11:11, consists of 2 parts – 11 studio-recorded tracks and 11 live-recorded tracks, amazingly all of different songs, making this the perfect album for a long road trip and establishing an expansive catalog of songs to be played live by this relatively young band. John Welton & The Awakening is ready to hit the ground running at venue performances and festival performances alike–as you can tell from the already tight musicianship of the live performances. Both sides of the record feature lighthearted songs with a playful tone and uplifting lyrics such as “isn’t it cool that we’re all molecules, hand-selected by the creator…what I’m saying is that we’re one in the same, we’re all in this together,” from the track “Molecules.” John says that he hopes this “work of a lifetime” serves as “musical medicine” to those who listen.
You may listen to whatever side of the record first, it doesn’t matter which order you choose. I started with the studio recorded side, immediately taking note of the positivity radiating from the lyrics and the music. Music filled with sunny vibrations moves you right away with the lyrics “It’s gonna be a good day,” in the first track “Here With You.” Most of the songs fall into a psychedelic jam and reggae style, all with distinct song structures and not many improvisational jams–which I don’t consider a bad thing. The lyric-driven music suits their laid-back sing-along style serving as a vehicle for the positive message and good vibes–a little lime-in-the-coconut of musical medicine if you will. “Nu JuJu,” is one of the few instrumental-driven jams on the record, and “Buzz” is the most psychedelic of this side. “Asking For a Friend” and “The World Today,” are distinctly reggae, and my personal favorite track is “Among the Living,” an emotional song with lyrics that hit me a little too close to home. Last year I fought a battle against breast cancer, and this song sings of a girl who finds herself in a similar situation. She receives a devastating diagnosis, but finds comfort in the music – “she dances to remind herself, that’s she’s among the living.”
The 11 live recordings are more fast-paced and give the music much more room to jam out, giving for long and dramatic introductions into suddenly upbeat and exciting music that will make you twirl – like the transitional track “Y A W N” going into “Musical Medicine” with plenty of horns and crashing drums. Electric guitar solos also appear more on this side of the album as evidenced in “It Only Takes One” and more. The tracks continue on this upbeat, bouncing tone, without a boring moment in sight and plenty of sing-along moments to keep you smiling. I love the simple and sweet lyrics of “For You,” that encourage you to sing along, “I’m so grateful for you. I’m so thankful for the things you do,” as an obvious love song to a best friend, a significant other, or a family member. “Jai Mai,” is the distinct reggae tune on this side and the closing track “Further” is an obvious homage to the beloved Grateful Dead, singing “we all wish that Jerry were here.”
I commend John Welton & The Awakening the most for making music with the intention of simply making people happy. You can feel the loving intention in every note and every lyric, his lighthearted voice encouraging you to sing and dance along. This record is perfect for those who like the Grateful Dead, endless summers, and hippie music festivals. Get your own little slice of sunshine at the Double Album Release Party this Saturday February 22, 2020, at Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, OH.