Every once in a while, the stars align, and the separate paths of celebrated musicians converge at just the right time in just the right place. We’ve seen it time and time again throughout history from The Traveling Wilburys to The Highwaymen. It’s happened again. The time was December 2016. The place was Malibu, CA. The band is Jamtown…
With a shared history that stretches back two decades and countless individual accolades under their respective belts, Jamtown unites three celebrated talents—Cisco Adler, Donavon Frankenreiter, and G. Love —under one flag to create pure musical magic. Like a NETFLIX age Crosby, Stills & Nash donning dusty headwear and soaking up the California sun, the trio brings together a myriad of styles and backgrounds. With roots as a professional surfer, beachside wisdom, and a gnarly mustache, Hawaii-based Frankenreiter remains surf rock’s 21stcentury poet laureate, while harmonica-wielding G.’s Philadelphia brew of pop, reggae, and hip-hop turned G. Love & The Special Sauce into a Gold-certified mainstay since 1993. A Grammy nominated producer and songwriter who’s penned hits for artists across all genres while amassing a sizable solo discography of his own, Malibu-born Adler remains a double-threat: studio guru and dynamic artist.
All of these elements seamlessly converge on Jamtown’s 2017 self-titled debut EP.
“We represent Hawaii, California, and the Northeast,” exclaims Adler. “With all of our influences from the blues to the beach, you get this modern definition of Americana.”
“It all came together so naturally,” adds Frankenreiter. “From the moment we got in the studio, everything seemed to come to fruition with ease.”
“When we were working together, everyone was creatively at a place that made this a possibility,” says G. “The day I got there, it was amazing. Cisco is a renaissance man. His production game, business game, and family life are all on point. It’s the same with Donavon. We’d been out on the road hitting it hard for years and honing our craft in front of audiences.”
Both signed to Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Recordings, Frankenreiter and G.’s history dates back to the 2003 Byron Bay Blues Festival where they each graced the bill. Frankenreiter would also share the stage with Cisco’s early band Whitestarr countless times years ago. While producing Cody Simpson’s FREE in 2015, Adler enlisted both vocalists for guest appearances. For years, Frankenreiter and G. bandied about the idea of doing a “barbecue record of covers.” When they arrived at Adler’s oceanside Bananabeat Studios in Malibu during December 2016, a creative spark ignited.
“We’ve known each other for many years, but the time was never right to work together,” Frankenreiter elaborates. “We got in there and wrote 10 songs in 10 days. None of us knew that was going to happen. If we went in with a preconceived notion of starting a group, it might not have. I thought it would be a Record Store Day release or something. It just kept getting better and better.”
“I never thought I would tour again, let alone be in another band,” admits Adler. “I was very happy to sit here all day, look at the ocean, and produce records for amazing artists. Once we started, I felt a duty to take this music to the people. It wasn’t enough for this to just be a one-off.”
“All of a sudden, these three forces came together, and it was game on,” grins G.
The boys recorded “in-the-moment” at Bananabeat. Adler set up stations with different instruments in each room like “an musicians playground.” At whim, they could pick up and press record. As a result, the music conjures a delicate magic as the three voices comprise one heavenly harmony equally informed by spontaneity and the Malibu mystique.
“I was like, ‘Let’s strip this down to three acoustics,’” says Adler. “When all three of us got in a room, it was like a fire exploded. The most important thing to me is feeling the soul, life, and story in the songs and the performances. When we sing harmony, it sounds like one voice. It’s so fucking cool”
“Jamtown is the best of what we each do,” continues Frankenreiter. “I’ve never been in a band where three guys played guitar. We can go play acoustic and get any kickass players behind us. The match has been struck. Now, it’s lit.”
The first single and opener “Fool In Love” coasts ahead on a country shuffle punctuated by harmonica, breezy acoustic guitars, and an unshakable upbeat refrain, “I guess I’m just a fool in love for you.”
“You’d do anything in the world for the girl you’re in love with,” explains Frankenreiter. You’d dance even if you don’t want to dance, because you’re a fool in love.”
“If you want me to farm, I’ll farm for you,” chuckles Adler. “We’ll grow the biggest fruit trees anyone has ever seen!”
Finger-snaps and a buoyant beat tick away “Island Time” as “All We Need” threads together lush lyricism and crisp instrumentation. The soulful ballad “Pick It Up” highlights yet another facet of the group.
“I’m a ballad lover,” Donavon remarks. “Lyrically, it’s a proposal. There’s some heartache in there, because the narrator wants to get back with this girl he loves so much and pick it up right where they left off.”
“We did that one at the very end of the session on the last day,” recalls G. “We had to clean up everything, because Cher was recording at Bananabeat that night!”
Welcoming a bevy of guests, the collection of songs features appearances from pedal steel icon Robert Randolph, Duane Betts of Dawes, Cody Dickinson of NMA, Citizen Cope, Uli Bellla of Ozomatli, and more.
Adler goes on, “The name came from us being like, ‘Yo, we know all of the baddest musicians in town. Let’s get them all down here to Jamtown to get on this thing.’ With everyone we called, it was like, ‘Of course, I’m coming to Jamtown. I’ve been waiting for the phone call.’”
With ambitions for summer outdoor shed-headlining glory and the tunes to back them up, Jamtown is a place music lovers will visit for a long time to come.
“We did this beautiful thing, and it happened in a serendipitous way,” concludes G. “We just got our ticket to this spaceship, roller coaster, magic carpet, or whatever you want to call it. We’re about to explode into the musical universe. Hang on. It’s just the most exciting thing I’ve felt in 20 years.”
“I don’t know if you’ve ever swumwith dolphins, but you don’t choose the dolphin to swim with, the dolphin chooses you when you jump in the water,” Adler leaves off. “That’s the essence of Jamtown. It chose us.” — Rick Florino, April 2017