Down on Music Row in Nashville, the most you might get from one of the suits scuffling between office buildings when you mention the name “Jason Eady” is a grumble. But down in Texas, he’s a seminal part of the new generation of songwriters filling the shoes of all the past Texas greats like Guy Clark, Blaze Foley, and Townes Van Zandt. Eady secured his place in the pantheon of new great songwriters in part with the 2021 song “French Summer Sun” that went on to be named the Saving Country Music Song of the Year.
But just like Ray Benson, Jerry Jeff Walker, and some of the other folks that have become synonymous with Texas music over the years, Jason Eady is not originally from the Lone Star State. He’s from Jackson, Mississippi. That hint of Mississippi blues has always been evident in his music if you listen for it, and often a Jason Eady album includes a song or two that looks to revive that deep South country blues sound.
On his new album Mississippi, Eady’s not just infusing this country blues influence into his music in subtle textures for a song or two. He’s bringing it right to the forefront, getting a little bit funky, and laying down grooves that mix that sweaty gulf air with a ladle full of lard to cook up something greasy.
Don’t expect the thoughtful songwriting with measured accompaniment you’re used to from Eady. There are ample opportunities to indulge yourself in that kind of stuff throughout his back catalog. The purpose of this album is to dive head first into Eady’s Mississippi roots in a way that takes shape as serious grooves and shack shakers designed to get the soul singing and the limbs twitching.
Eady sings in the first song “Way Down in Mississippi” how he grew up on country and bluegrass, but also with Gospel revivals and blues progressions. “After a while I made my way to Texas, I learned how the poets did it their own way,” Eady sings. “But I wouldn’t be here making this music if it weren’t for the sound of my younger days.”
This is not to say that songwriting isn’t a part of Mississippi. Ominous resonator tones underpin the compelling story of a working man under the oppressive thumb of a local power broker in the well-written “Mile Over 45.” Quality songwriting isn’t always about $1,000 words and cunning plot twists. Sometimes it’s just presenting an idea in a compelling way using colloquial language, like the commentary on revenge Eady crafts on “Getting Even.”
The album isn’t completely devoid of country tunes either. The final song “Misty” with its shuffle beat and steel guitar is as country as they come. But if you need an auditory illustration to explain what someone means when they say “country blues,” Mississippi would be as good of one as any. Producer Gordy Quist of the Band of Heathens and Jason Eady’s other collaborators center the music and the mood first. As Eady says himself, “This time around it’s all about the sound.”
Highly revered among the audience that puts songwriting at the pinnacle of importance in music, Jason Eady also knows when to make sure his career doesn’t get stuck in a rut of the same ol’. Just like he did with his 2018 album I Travel On that took his bluegrass influences and pushed them forward, Eady does that successfully with the Mississippi blues on this album, pairing it well with soulful country albums recently from folks like Adam Hood and Brent Cobb.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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