[CD Review] Donavon Frankenreiter, 'Pass It Around' (Lost Highway)

You would think Laguna Beach’s Donavon Frankenreiter would be sick of getting constantly compared to mainstream surf crooner (and longtime friend) Jack Johnson. The similarities are abundant—serene lyrics laid smoothly over acoustic strumming, to name the most obvious—and Frankenreiter was on Johnson’s Brushfire record label for a spell, so critics can’t help making a reference or three. There are worse fates for musicians, yet Frankenreiter doesn’t really seem to be the type who’d get steamed about much of anything. Take the exceedingly tranquil “Life, Love & Laughter,” which starts his third album, Pass It Around, setting the tone for endless bundles of positivity and elation. Attribute his sunshine-and-puppies ’tude to the truly charmed life he’s led: not only a world-traveling pro surfer, but also a successful singer/songwriter (of course you hate him). But Frankenreiter’s genuinely carefree charisma is infectious. Pass It Around focuses on the unadulterated melodies the singer is known for, but a few songs show Frankenreiter refreshingly stepping out of his sandbox. A mariachi band laces the track “Your Heart,” adding a worldly warmth to his cool lulling. “Sing a Song” has G. Love doing a spirited cameo on harmonica, and on the bouncing, tropical plum “Come With Me,” Frankenreiter adds a little slide guitar to an otherwise beach-bound mantra. Pass It Around may not be the place to find groundbreaking sonic triumphs, but Frankenreiter seems content making sincere, joyful music and generally living his dream—which also happens to be everyone’s.

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