Surfer/songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter plays 8150
VAIL – If you like surfer/songwriter Jack Johnson, you will like Donavon Frankenreiter. On Frankenreiter’s self-titled debut album, released May 11, it is often hard to tell the difference between the two. So it is no wonder why Jack Johnson, along with Mario Caldato Jr., master knob-twister of Beastie Boys and Beck fame, produced the album on Johnson’s signature label – Brushfire Records. It must be the common muse – the ocean – which gives these two professional surfers the same sound. Their backgrounds are practically identical. Frankenreiter was born in Downey, Calif. His days as a youth revolved around the water and surfing. By the time he was 13, Billabong was sponsoring him, affording him the role that most outdoor enthusiasts only dream about – to ride the waves for free. He didn’t even have to surf in competition. Johnson had the same luxury. He grew up in Oahu, Hawaii, and before making music he made surf films. At age 18, Frankenreiter formed his first high school band, Peanut Butter and Jam. For the last three years, he has been hitting the music scene hard, touring and playing with the likes of Dave Matthews Band, Ben Harper, G. Love and of course Johnson. But it was the early band namesake that foreshadowed the essence of his first album: just the basics.
You will find yourself singing along as I did by the second time listening to the album. The lyrics are predicable. Every word rhymes. His voice is easy going and likable, though it is hard to find originality in the songs. The acoustic guitar on “Butterfly” is reminiscent of “Blackbird” by the Beatles. In fact, I could actually interchange the lyrics to “Blackbird” with Frankenreiter’s words to “Butterfly.” Similarly, Kool G. Murder’s key work on “Our Love” sounds like something I have heard before, a pop song from the ’60s. I like this tune, however. It is a happy ditty that inspires you to get high on your tip toes and jump back and forth in joy to the melody of the song. But where is the original composition? “Free” is still playing on the radio, the only song on the album not solely written by Frankenreiter. Jack Johnson contributes to this single. It begins with a fun ukulele-sounding riff, which gives nod to the artists’ experiences and love growing up on a beach. Like the title indicates, you might want to roll your car windows down for this number and let the wind blow in your hair.
But all Frankenreiter’s songs are toe-tapping sing-alongs. The CD is a little on the cheesy side and don’t be surprised if you hear his lyrics resonating from the windows of Sigma Phi Epsilon or Delta Chi. But the album is what it is – beach music gone a little bit fratty. My favorite track is “What ‘Cha Know About Love,” featuring G. Love. On a disc where it is sometimes hard to tell where one song ends and the other begins, G. Love’s harmonica adds some distinction and depth. Frankenreiter’s music expresses the simplistic nature of surfers and evokes feelings of sitting around the beach fire, sandy and tan from a day at the beach. Your spirit will lift and head will bob as you listen to this debut album, even if you do ask yourself, “Haven’t I heard this before?”
Don’t take my word for it. See him live Friday night at 8150 in Vail Village.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado