It might be easy to dismiss the surfer/singer/songwriter genre. After all, there’s not a lot of surfing happening in Asheville. Jack Johnson (the patriarch of the sound) has yet to perform here. And if we want laid-back grooves and positive lyrics, we can just turn up Josh Phillips’ excellent (and locally-made) Wicker.
Only, really, is there such as thing as too much feel-good music? And, also, can’t most of us relate, on some level to the whole beachy, carefree, Endless Summer ideal?
Enter Donavon Frankenreiter who, according to his bio, got his first surfboard when he was 10 and “six years later, he picked up his first guitar. It was the beginning of a wildly creative journey: His improvisational twin obsessions have carried him around the globe and into his fans’ hearts.” He’s a long-time friend of Johnson and a Brushfire Records (Johnson’s label) alum. In fact, he met Johnson while in Hawaii on surfing tour sponsored by Billabong.
But from the 2004 release of his first, self-titled album, Frankenreiter proved he had chops beyond acoustic guitar licks and mellow hooks. That album’s single, “It Don’t Matter” was all 70s swagger and retro cool. In 2006, he followed up with Move By Yourself; the video for the title track from that albums shows Frankenreiter stalking like a hipper BeeGee down a mountain-lined highway dressed in two-toned bellbottoms, heeled boots, blazer, scarf and leather-trimmed fedora. No Jams shorts or rash guards in sight. But the nasty, fuzzed-out guitar, the pulse-thick bass and slinky percussion said that this guy was for real.
Frankenreiter came through Asheville (and spoke to Xpress) two years ago, touring Pass It Around, an album by turns more polished and more pop-savy, but, thanks to plenty of Wurlitzer and vintage gear, just as butterfly-collar-funky.
Review for that album, so far, are largely positive, from the expected (“This is another great album from Donavon ‘The Moustache’ Frankenreiter,” writes an Amazon.com customer. “Keep it up, brah. The ukelele is great, but the vocals really drive home the vibe and lyrics in most of the songs. ‘Glow’ is just the song of the summer”) to the more objective (“Frankenreiter does little here that sounds wrong (or right), reassuring listeners that ‘everything will be all right on a song that’s titled, naturally, ‘All Right, says Allmusic.com).
Watch the video for his new single, “Glow”: