Downs, Jason : White Boy With A Feather

Ill-conceived NYC urban-alt country farrago

Jason Downs may have a New York address, but he’s still a country bumpkin at heart. So much so that when some city slicker decided to trounce all over his otherwise halfway decent singer/ songwriter schtick with abominable rapping, he feebly agreed. Downs, so the story goes, was a down-and-out handyman/busker writing unremarkable country-inflected guitar tunes before hip-hop producer Mark Passey and rapper Milk took him under their vulture-sized wings and guided him through the four long years it took to make ‘White Boy…’. The idea was to fuse rootsy alt-folk with gritty urban beats, and the result is comprehensively terrible.

Just as the title track is a low-rent ‘Drinking in LA’, what follows is equally derivative (Beck’s lawyers will listen with interest) and – amazingly – even more annoying. Downs yodels despondently beneath Milk’s incessant muscle-flexing rhymes, meandering aimlessly through songs which corral together every NYC cliché in the book. ‘Revenue’ (about how people lose their souls in search of money in the evil metropolis, maaan) sounds something like Cat Stevens singing with the Beastie Boys, but not nearly as interesting, and both ‘Girls’ and ‘Ecstasy’ proffer the sort of deeply misogynistic tripe that make Kid Rock sound like a feminist. Worst of all, there’s a pervading sense of smugness – Downs and co actually believe they’ve created something smart, funny, even groundbreaking. Don’t let them fool you.

April Long