John Cozz has had himself a busy quarantine. He launched his coffee roasting company Cozz Coffee, had Berrics pick up his hilarious greenscreed skate video “John Cozz Murders the House”, and even found the time to develop a bluegrass obsession. He channeled his new found love for that distinct Appalachian style of music into his latest quarantine accomplishment, his fantastic new EP John Cozz and His Stinky Feet. The EP eschews his punk roots for a fresh southern twang, a massive stylistic jump that not too many artists could pull off. However, Cozz is a complete natural as a country crooner, taking to the new style with ease and grace.
That’s not to say that this is a whole new Cozz. On “Mischief” he covers plenty of familiar territory, singing about how he misses telling off cops, hitting the diner at 4 AM, and causing the titular mischief with his friends, but the twang and plucking makes you feel like he’s talking about a diner Tuscaloosa instead of the Tick Tock. It’s really remarkable how much of a seamless fit his voice works with this completely foreign style. Cozz couldn’t feel like more of a natural telling his Jersey based tales of debauchery in this distinctly southern way, thanks in great part to his accompanying band Ken De Poto, Dylan Robert Drummond, Max Rauch, Ian Peters, and Evan Harrison Parker.
On this EP Cozz shows that regardless of how he’s spinning his tales, he is still one of the most compelling storytellers in DIY music. On “Details” a simple straightforward story about having to stay the night at his buddy’s in the city after the PATH crapped out on the both of them becomes a testament to an enduring friendship, full with an offer to crash on one another’s couch if they should ever be in the neighborhood. Something about the simplicity and specificity and the matter-of-factness of it all makes it feel so beautifully human, just two friends being there for one another in big and small ways who will make an effort to continue to be there for one another regardless of what life throws in their way. Meanwhile on “14 Days” he sings about how the state of the economy and both political parties ambivalence to the plight of working people in the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes left him hiding in bed for two weeks, sung with enough good humor to help you forget how dire the situation really is.
The standout track however has to be “Moldy Garlic”, the EP’s lone single that Cozz promoted by hilariously pretending to give himself food poisoning by ingesting some fermented garlic that had gone awry. Cozz sings about being driven to tears after cutting up some onion to throw in his scrambled eggs saying it was the first time he felt something in weeks. He goes on to lament that you can’t access other deep emotions by doing stuff to food, wondering why he can’t get happy eating a rutabaga or bored boiling a potato, all over a gorgeous country jangle. It’s a fun track with an incredible bounce to it that’s a whole lot deeper than you might realize after an initial listen, especially if you got distracted by the saloon-styled piano that carries the back half of the track like I did.
While his loosie from last year “Whose Gonna Take Over Jeopardy” hinted at some of the stylistic influences present on John Cozz and His Stinky Feet I never imagined that Cozz’s punk anthems would work so effortlessly as bluegrass tunes. I don’t know if I am most impressed by the versatility he displayed, the ambition of hopping into a completely new style or music out of an appreciation for the artform, or how he was able to make bluegrass still sound all his own. It’s a fun and surprising EP from an artist who seems to be able to accomplish whatever he sets his mind to.