The listening room saying “Shut up and listen” was coined for guys like Jason Eady. It would be a cardinal sin to sully a performance from this sage of singer/songwriter country with something as meaningless as idle chatter. Jason Eady doesn’t deliver songs. He delivers sermons—little slice-of-life lessons with wisdom to unravel. This isn’t entertainment. It’s church. So yeah, you best shut up, lean in, and listen, or you will miss something much more valuable than just a song.
A gorgeously-crafted record of purposeful expressions, Jason Eady’s latest called To The Passage of Time begins and ends with the moaning tone of a steel guitar filling your ears. In between, Eady employs an economy of words and sounds to encapsulate life lessons and impart perspective through stories and rhyme. Along with the lack of pretentiousness is a lack of embellishment, aside from clean and rich audio signals throughout. These are just the raw songs. But every word and tone is as imperative as it is warm and enveloping.
Where his last record I Travel On took advantage of bluegrass pickers Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley to put a little gas behind his original works, this one is more indicative of earlier Eady albums, like 2014’s Daylight & Dark, or his self-titled record from 2017. A small team of collaborators, including Geoff Queen on steel and dobro, Noah Jeffries on mandolin and fiddle, Brian Ferguson on drums, Mark Williams on bass and cello, and harmony vocals by Jamie Lin Wilson and wife Courtney Patton help bring the album to life.
You can’t help but wonder if the muse for the opening song “Nothing On You” is wife Courtney Patton. Another one of the album’s standout tracks also is about a strong woman protagonist, called “The Luxury of Dreaming,” speaking to a life of quiet desperation that so many can identify with. Even the songs that maybe don’t have some prophetic lesson to take away, and just tell a simply country story such as “Gainesville,” still ring significant from the scarcity of arrangement exploring the open space. Even though it’s a song that feels like it could call for so much more, it’s just the tapping of Eady’s toe, an acoustic guitar, and a little harmony.
But the song that everyone has been talking about, and probably will continue to well beyond the life cycle of this record or any other, is Jason Eady’s ode to the fallen, “French Summer Sun,” co-written with Drew Kennedy. Originally released in June ahead of the album, it’s had us all cutting onions ever since, and only resonates more deeply in light of current events in Kabul.
Cueing up this new Jason Eady record and even knowing what’s coming, “French Summer Sun” still evokes chill bumps and misty eyes. Then you hit repeat, and it’s magic is just as potent. It’s not just the story (no spoilers here), the way Eady crafts the perfect little melody to accompany it, and talks instead of sings is the expert approach to bring the magic out of this song—a song you get the sense isn’t just the best of this record, or perhaps the best of this year, or even the best of Eady’s accomplished songwriting career. It’s one of those all-time songs from anyone.
But Jason Eady’s To The Passage of Time will not be for everyone. It challenges the audience to pay attention, and to listen deeper. Those with patience will be handsomely rewarded. Those who just want to blast some tunes during the daily commute, or while out by the lake on a Saturday night, they might remark it puts them to sleep.
Jason Eady is long past caring about keeping up with the kids though. He’s found the kind of equilibrium that is the envy of many songwriters and performers where the song is always first, not some underlying career objective or financial goal. As long as the bills get paid, he’s perfectly fine playing his songs for whomever is willing to listen. And those willing to listen will be rewarded with way more than just a few enjoyable songs.
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