Chris St. John’s intimate brand of singer/songwriter country musings carries listeners aloft with the title track of his new EP With You. The frank autobiographical trappings of the material never pose any obstacles for us enjoying the song as St. John’s talents allow him to tap into a near-universal strand of human experience. Marrying those autobiographical inclinations with a gentle yet energetic melody helps supply further impetus to St. John’s sentiments without ever upsetting the delicate balance he achieves with the song. It’s shaping up to be the latest hit in an ongoing string of popular singles that have seen St. John become one of the indie world’s pre-eminent artists in the singer/songwriter school.
St. John builds the song in a compelling, yet straightforward fashion. The opening provides listeners with an aural glimpse of the song’s origins as the songwriter leans on little more than his plaintive voice and acoustic guitar. Such a beginning emphasizes the unfettered emotion underlying the track without ever lapsing into heavy-handed sentimentality. He handles the inevitable transition from the opening mood into a full band performance with seamless aplomb and it likewise maintains the mood without any trickery
A dollop of pedal steel further accentuates the song’s gentle nature and piano accompaniment fleshes out its potential. St. John and his fellow musicians have obvious chops to burn, but the songwriter eschews any instrumental flashiness in favor of a song-oriented approach that disdains pseudo-virtuosity. One notable, though far from ostentatious, exception to this comes with a brief flurry of lead guitar during the song’s second half. It underlines the country influences fueling St. John’s writing while remaining open to all listeners.
His lyrical content paints a loving though realistic vision of the ties that bind a couple from their earliest days. These are lyrics grounded in the realities of everyday life rather than a Hollywood-laced vision of relationships and the plainspoken language that St. John employs is bereft of even a single extraneous word. He’s written this song with its instrumental accompaniment well in mind and there’s an added linear coherence to how he traces the arc of an evolving love through its assorted challenges and triumphs.
If the remaining tracks on St. John’s EP match or surpass the bar set by this track, we’re in for his best release yet. He’s already enjoyed notable success with numerous chart-topping hits in the indie music world and it isn’t a stretch to expect “With You” will reach the same heights. It is, moreover, a product of his rich and varied life experience without ever outright saying so and the hallmarks of a life well lived are present in virtually every turn of phrase.
Kudos to Chris St. John. It isn’t often that we encounter a song rife with the wisdom of a healthy and fruitful romantic relationship; the opposite is all too common. If you believe or have heard it said that happiness and contentment make for poor songwriting subjects, Chris St. John’s “With You” challenges that theory in a quiet and fully satisfying way.