The first song is about whiskey, specifically about drinking it in Oklahoma, and is one of two tracks with “whiskey” in the title. The next song is set in Abilene and is about possibly leaving a lover. Driving along a highway is involved. The third track is called “Temptation,” and it’s about choices and spirituality. The fourth song, “One, Two … Many,” is about, oh, I think you get the picture.
The album in question is Daylight and Dark, the fifth long-player by Fort Worth singer-songwriter Jason Eady, and it may make you wonder, Is there a difference between paying homage to the past in song and plowing the same ol’ territory that songwriters have been going over for years?
The performances are stellar. Recorded in Madison, Tenn., with producer Kevin Welch, who produced Eady’s previous two albums, and with guitarist Richard Bennett (Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Neil Diamond), drummer John Gardner (Taylor Swift), and bassist Steve Mackey (Dolly Parton, Delbert McClinton), Daylight and Dark is 11 pristine but warm no-nonsense country songs, including a bonus track with guest appearances by Hayes Carll and The Turnpike Troubadours’ Evan Felker. In his artist’s statement, Eady says he set out to produce a timeless record, implying that what worked for country music in the early 1970s still works today.
Musically, he’s right. His sweet, soft voice has just the slightest hint of twang (which I’m sure even the reddest redneck appreciates), and the alternately jangly and glittering acoustics, quiet snare rimshots, and moaning pedal steel couldn’t be any prettier.
The lyrics? Hmm. Eady goes on to say, “Country music, to me, is music that puts lyrics above all else,” the overall objective being “to connect to the everyday lives of people everywhere.” And Eady can definitely spin a yarn. “We Might Just Miss Each Other,” a duet with Courtney Patton, is a cheeky little ditty about two former lovers trying to avoid each other at the bar for fear of falling back into love, and the mournful title track brings you directly into the life of a rudderless soul desperate for answers. Eady, who also has penned songs for The Trishas, Micky & The Motorcars, and Eleven Hundred Springs, knows how to write. Of that, there is no doubt.
But whiskey? Highways? Blue-collar living? There has to be more to life –– and to country music –– than that. Right? I mean, teetotalers in downtown high-rises also feel love, loss, and happiness.
What’s crazy is that if there’s a single songwriter who can take country music out of the booze-soaked, pickup truck-lined ghetto of banality, it’s Eady. Among other things, the Mississippi native spent six years globetrotting as an Arabic translator for the Air Force. Where’s the album about that? In speaking specifically, Eady would achieve that connection to the universal he’s aiming for. “God is in the details” and all that.
Daylight and Dark is still an achievement, a skillfully arranged, structured, and performed collection of songs aimed squarely at fans of Willie, Waylon, and Merle. Most of the album is subdued, patient, and melancholy (very Joshua Judges Ruth-esque), with Eady gently plucking his acoustic guitar while crooning soulfully, not belting out the words, just really feeling them, inhabiting the stories. The few uptempo numbers –– especially “A Memory Now,” that tune with Carll and Felker –– swing like dancehall classics. Though some of his tropes may be shopworn, Eady’s melodies are refreshing.
Jason Eady will celebrate the release of Daylight and Dark on Friday at The Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge (1311 Lipscomb St., 817-926-0986). Cover is $12-15.
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