Jason Eady can do what they can do, but they can’t do what Jason Eady does, which is strip it all back and have the appeal for the music rest entirely on the written composition of a song. Even the most minimalist of performers have to rely a little bit on style, groove, or some sort of window dressing. But for Jason Eady, it’s almost like a type of Zen to him—trying to find the slimmest, most fragile accompaniment to his words as possible where you can’t help but allow the theater of the mind to take over, and your thoughts be submerged in the story and message.
Such methodology in music is usually reserved for the shoegazing solo folk performer, or the stool-perched singer songwriter. Even going solo acoustic is in some ways its own musical accoutrement. But Jason Eady is definitely country music. He says he wanted this self-titled album to be a work he could replicate without electricity, and aside from a few contributions from steel guitar maestro Lloyd Maines, this is true.
It wasn’t always this way with Jason Eady though. The early records of his career are virtually unrecognizable from where his is today. In 2012, Eady released AM Country Heaven, and that’s where this run of songwriter-based, stripped back, but still somewhat hard style of country music began. This is also when Eady started to work with producer Kevin Welch, who collaborated with Eady on the equally-loved Daylight & Dark, along with this newest one. The writing is mostly Eady’s, but a few other notables chime in, like Channing Wilson, Trishas alums Jamie Lin Wilson and Kelley Mickwee on the song “Drive,” as well as Larry Hooper, Adam Hood, and Josh Grider who collaborate on one of the best songs on the record, “Barabbas” (read review).
As you can imagine, the songs are what the listener takes away from this self-titled album. This isn’t a knock on the players or Jason Eady’s performance, but the songcraft is so striking, it quickly becomes the centerpiece, even more so than the previous two records in this era of Eady’s career. His well isn’t running dry, it’s just now finding the sweetwater.
What comes across most starkly on this record is Jason Eady’s use of perspective in his writing. To put himself in the shoes of the man let free so Jesus could be crucified involves a depth of insight most of us just don’t have the discipline to explore. The timely “Black Jesus” pulls a similar maneuver, only more involved. This song is only capable from someone with a knack for seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, but exhibiting even more dexterity of perspective, Eady then looks back at himself through that same pair of foreign eyes to gain a whole new level of insight on his own original perspective not just to see the differences, but to espouse on the universal similarities. This is one step beyond what I believe the Millennials refer to as “meta.”
“Genie in a Bottle” is a little more classic in its songwriting approach, but still just as potent in its message. And Jason Easy doesn’t shy away from getting deeply personal in his songwriting, like the song “Not Too Loud” about the aging of his child, or “40 Years” pondering the aging of himself. The writing is intelligent and involved, but the stories and lessons are for everyday people and universal moments that range from the pleasant to the heartbreaking, and to the seemingly mundane that reveal themselves as prophetic.
Just like the moments in life, the more you listen and observe, the more a song can reveal its wisdom. It’s not just minimalism that’s at the heart of Jason Eady’s genius, it’s also the slow, careful pondering of moments. This is music for slowing down to—for taking stock.
Similar to how it takes a lot of discipline to resist the temptation to add layer upon layer of music to these songs of Eady’s, so does it take a level of discipline from the audience to settle themselves, and pay rapt attention to these songs without the showbiz or catchiness to suck you in. Jason Eady challenges you to listen, and though you will find few more revered songwriters by his peers throughout the Texas scene, Eady still remains a more niche performer because of this. There’s just not the infectiousness you’re going to find with the Turnpike Troubadours, for example.
And that’s okay. Because Jason Eady could do that if he wanted, and he chooses instead to play for those who are more apt to listen intently, and be patient for a story to develop. Whether that’s a few or many doesn’t matter as much as shepherding a song to the world in its most pure and potent form.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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