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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Thriftstore Cowboy


"What about fulfilment?", sings this new country star - and we have it right here in this album.

From the astutely generous folks at Miles High Productions comes their Feb 7th release of Country/Americana poster-boy Jason Whitton's Thriftstore Cowboy.

I'm going through a soul-searching stage vis-à-vis advance albums and returning most stuff simply because I'm running out of energy to recycle the fake enthusiasm I once pumped out.

Atop which, I'm not *that* wild about country and most of what I hear has been done better by the giants atop whose shoulders the wannabes perch before plummeting back to singsongs on flatbed trucks at their local bullrides.

But this Whitton fellow has something special, starting with a siren voice that's an instrument in itself, incapable of an unmusical throb or vibrato.

Hypnotic, and grabbing me more with each re-play.

Not to bite the hand that stacks my CD collection - and Miles High tend not to waste my earhole time - but it's interesting how spoonfed the media must be if they need telling who singers sounds like.

In Whitton's case, he's lumped with Keith Urban, Nickelcreek, and - ulp - Tracy Chapman - none of whose vocalizing or timbre match this boy's vox - including his effortless (and judiciously sparing) falsetto.

I'm not sure how I'd feel about working my guts out on an album, only to find myself compared to someone else.

Not that you can complain: corner the press officer and he'll tell you,

"Dude - Sell a ton of records and maybe we'll let you sound like yourself."

Cain't win. But I digress.

If I settled for the easy life of some of my peer reviewers, I'd follow the accompanying press handout and cite track 2's "I still believe in love" as an example of Whitton's talents - as opposed to simply hailing its killer opening line to "Undo the buttons on your shirt".

As for sounding like messrs Urban Creek Chapman, JW's catchy voice is closer to James Taylor's twang with a hint of Ian Matthews.

Either way, it's shown at its best on Track 1's superb "Alibi" - almost defining the perfect country song - and a great showcase for JW's versatile range:

I defy your pulse not to quicken on that first kick-ass bass thump as our boy winds sinuous tonsils round the chorus's "O-h-h, why-y-y? Don’t give me that si-i-gh", ending with a velveteen murmured "Don’t give me that alib-i-i".

And listen for the way his voice rises on "the answer's be-hind  our eyes" and again on the bridge's "And you'll _ask_ me for forgiveness."

Speaking of the bridge, listen closely for that bass hum backing (previous gig: opening chorus on Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood") - pure genius.

Drums/Percussion: One takes these backing musicans for granted until you hear it done really well, and that Jon Mattox knows from country ballad drumming. He also seems a dab hand on the swelling organ sound ("Dandelion Girl") *and* on bass *and* on guitar (acoustic, 'lectric *and* 12-string) *and* on snare, the multi-talented creep - doncha hate 'em? If I was JM's agent, I'd give him a fashionable nickname à la "Lucky" Dave Ambrose whose electric guitar shines the petals of "Dandelion Girl" - something like Jon "And" Mattox, something to annoy his multi-instrumentalist buds and rivals.

Mattox Blog: Indeed, the ubiquitous "And" has his own blog where he quite rightly plugs this album.

In fact, the whole band is tight and talented and the production values are right up there - I bet Whitton's pleased with this package.

The more I listen, the more I'm convinced I'd've forked out my own greenbacks.

Run don't walk to check it out online - here or here - and judge the maestro for yourselves - but not just "Alibi", which'll have you ordering it on the spot, but try "Fingernail Moon" for JW's ability to go delicate.

The great thing about Whitton's twangy voice is that it carries over the backing, of which 'Sunflower' is a good example where your deep-voiced singer would have disappeared into the backing.

The acid test is that my real deal guitar pals perk up their ears and ask me who, where and whut the heck am *I* doing knowing about this champ. Well, I'm the fake deal who gets sent these totally cool albums with each one of which my authenticity count plods a little higher.

Don't take *my* word for it - grab a free listen and let me know what you think.

Check out the friendly informative comment from knowledgeable Anon - thanks, pal.

Plea: Can anyone  point me to the chords of "Alibi"? I *have* to add it to my repertoire for the next Bagels & Beans: I don't have the voice, and I don't have the guitar, but I yearn to see Chele's eyes mist over as I gaze into them and croon what any man with cojones would make a five-syllable "alib-ah-i-i-ii".

Fame: Yee haww  - check this  out - yours truly quoted on the Whitton page. Dang - that'll teach me to post in haste and re-edit at leisure: it's my crumby first -version scribblings they're running, albeit with a link to this lengthier more thoughtful and researched assessment. (Thanks, Chip!)

JW's a real deal too. Plays and writes his own music. His own lyrics too. Saw him play recently and was hooked. One of the few people that can play, sing in tune and his jokes are actually funny. Quieting a room full of drunks with Sunflower was rather impressive.
Thanks, guy. Appreciate it; sent me back to tweak it a little as I played it for the umpteenth time. I've started work on 'Madagascar' - that honey of a song has chick magnet all over it.
Hi Busker. Thanks for the kind words about Jason's album. The typo on my blog has been addressed, and those responsible have been shot. Late night HTML haze I suspect.

okay bye!
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