Roots, Rock, Redepmtion: A review of American Trappist's self-titled debut - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
American Trappist | photo by Brian L. Tice Jr.

American Trappist’s self-titled debut had me saying “Johnny Cash” over and over again in my head for the duration of my time listening. The LP, consisting of thirteen tracks, takes listeners on a journey of self acceptance, personal discovery, and many of the other ups and downs that accompany the transition into young adulthood.

American Trappist, also known as John Michelini, doesn’t tell fans any more about the music he creates beyond the declaration that he wants to make “one or more significant contributions to American music.” You could categorize Michelini as a blues, Americana, folk, or rock artist and none of these labels would be wrong.

The LP begins with the bass-heavy track, “Satan’s Kingdom,” which is reminiscent of the White Stripes and the Black Keys circa “Howlin’ for You” with an ample amount of acoustic guitar; a ska-inspired interlude replaces any of the folk elements that had been present. After this, the song transitions into a gospel choir melody which brings the track to a close.

“No Bible” is where Cash really comes into play. It begins with a smattering of piano notes that usher in another ambient bass-heavy intro. Lyrics like “You want to know why don’t you open the door? Come on, everyone’s looking for a little bit more” beckons listeners to join Michelini on a tantalizing excursion into adulthood.

Both the mood and the vocals on the track “Heaven” made me think that I had found the guy that should be singing opposite of Lana Del Rey in her many musical monologues about being a lone-wolf pursuing her version of the American Dream. Ambient ballads like “Jackie” transition into a more indie-inspired part of the LP, thus leaving all traces of Cash behind. The record concludes with “Up in The Air,” a woeful track that contemplates the future of a relationship that has been over for some time. The song leaves listeners with little idea as to whether Michelini accomplishes his goal of closure during this contemplative musical endeavor.

American Trappist demonstrates an impressive range with both his vocals and subject matter. The one downfall of the LP was that it fell into a familiar lull of guitar-driven tracks about sudden change. The first half of the album stayed consistent with themes of shirking religious ideals as told by a rebellious cowboy, but soon the mood wandered into the angsty suburbs of New Jersey which was a bit jarring. This leaves it up to listeners to decide if they want to accompany Michelini on the whole ride, or if they decide that they only want to check in at a choice few stages of his journey. Decide for yourselves by streaming the full album at American Trappist’s website.

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