Jack Johnson & Friends: The Best of Kokua Festival

by: Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson is such a big deal in his native Hawaii that whatever guests he hires to appear on his Kokua Festival can follow his rules. At the very least, he's gotten Jackson Browne to rewrite part of "Take It Easy," giving the "Winslow Arizona" verse a distinctly island spin. This is the most overt display of deference on Jack Johnson & Friend: The Best of Kokua Festival but it's hardly the only moment where Johnson is clearly the Big Kahuna, nor is Browne the biggest star here. Eddie Vedder stops by, along with many other rockers and guitar strummers of all stripes, and there is a sense of communal good times that's palpable and often ingratiating, even to those who don't quite cotton to Johnson's notion of surf-n-sun good times. Even here, where he is quite clearly the ringleader, Johnson remains an affable but not forceful presence on record: Browne, Vedder, Willie Nelson, even Dave Matthews and Ben Harper, all easily overpower him. And yet there's no question that this is his party: his sweet, accommodating nature is evident throughout these cuts, so much so that they may elicit a smile from the sour doubters who've never found a reason to like his studio records. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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