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‘California Rain’, John C. Aulabaugh’s Upcoming Album, Reviewed


John C. Aulabaugh


If California is synonymous of sunshine, John C. Aulabaugh opens his upcoming album with the title track, ‘California Rain’, a beautiful ballad filled with delicate guitar, warm and melancholic strings and his soaring powerhouse, propelling the apparent gentle tune to poignant heights. There’s softness and something close to violent euphoria in this song, and the tender guitar picking of the beginning could, at times, be slightly reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s style.

As it is the case for numerous musicians, Aulabaugh brings many influences at the core of his songwriting. Once you know he has previously worked with producer Rami Jaffee (Foo Fighters, WallFlowers), Jessy Greene (Foo Fighters, Wilco, Jayhawks, Pink), Frankie DiVanna (Candlebox/Trashcan Sinatras), Jason Roberts (Norah Jones) and Dave Krusen (Pearl Jam), it is easy to hear some of the Foo Fighters’ rage in ‘Existential Crisis’, although the strong melody of the song breaks down in the middle to a sort of Beatles-que psychedelic revolution meltdown. It is however quite difficult to pigeonhole the entire album, as a Tom Petty-esque ‘Dream Girl’ brings even more diversity and makes its alt-country roots shine, while ‘Rely’, after a soothing start, makes its guitars roar in reverb with a Neil Young toughness while keeping an indie rock touch.

There’s even a south of the border visit during a ‘Spanish Lullaby’ with triumphant Mexican trumpets à la Calexico and Spanish guitars, going into pleasant dissonance and intense emotion. ‘I’ve Had Better Days’ may be the most indie rock song of the album, introducing banjo and piano, Harrison-esque guitars and one of the most hooky chorus of the album. While John C. Aulabaugh’s voice and guitar have never been so clear and determined, the song is a sort of love affair between English pop and Americana indie rock.

‘Don’t want to say good bye, so I say hello,’ he continues during ‘Hello’, which could be a direct allusion to the Beatles’ Hello Goodbye’, while the following song, ‘Grace’, starts like one of the most tender McCartney compositions, before flying high. Does it mean that Aulabaugh carries his influences on his sleeve? He is certainly not afraid to cover one of Elliott Smith’s best-known tunes, ‘Between the Bars’, which nicely fits after two songs about Smith’s main obsessions, the pursuit of love (‘Dream Girl’) and angst (‘Existential Crisis’), and Aulabaugh sings it with soul and an almost bluesy tone in the vocals of the chorus.

Although he was in a band in his early 20’s, Aulabaugh left music for the corporate world when he had to raise a family, but he recently decided to go back to music, and almost immediately started to write and record songs although he hadn’t played guitar for several decades. The most amazing part of the story is that it never shows, with his impeccable musical background, Aulabaugh’s music seems to belong to the classics.

‘California Rain’ – and this may be a working title – still doesn’t have a proper release date, but it will follow his 2015 debut album ‘Of Sins Present and Past’ which was dealing with the dark themes of addiction and recovery, pain and recovery. This upcoming one, which leans more on the love-song theme side, will move you through genres and ranges of emotions, elegantly navigating between classic rock and indie pop rock, bringing a slight touch of Americana, a personal feel and a touching vibe. Throughout the album, Aulabaugh’s strong and youthful voice is balancing the songs with grace and assurance over intelligently crafted melodies shifting between sunshine and rain. Rain may be rare in California, but it does occur and a California rainy day has to be as treasured as a listen to this album.

California Rain
Existential Crisis
Dream Girl
Between the Bars
Girl of My Dreams
Spanish Lullaby
I’ve Had Better Days


  1. Belinda Buyze on November 28, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Great album and great review!

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