Wednesday, December 26, 2007

CD Review: Jason Quicksall's "My Wiser Side"

by Dave Schaefer

Jason Quicksall’s newest release My Wiser Side captures you almost instantly in the first track and holds on to you throughout. Much of this is the quality of songwriting that he exhibits as well as the smooth instrumental arrangement. The CD could easily be a droll set of acoustic folkiness, but instead he lifts it to a very listenable, surprisingly honest set of songs.

It would be easy for Jason to fall into a melancholy muck and make it difficult for his listeners to escape from it without losing an emotional shoe or two. Instead, he uses just enough restraint to make songs like “Wiser Side” and “Unbreakable” intriguing in their balance of light and darkness, involving the listener and creating something that’s musically interesting and lyrically thoughtprovoking.

In light of this delicate balance that he seems to so effortlessly maintain, I asked Jason about his songwriting process.

“My songs usually start with one hook, be it lyrical, melodic or hopefully both. Just something that grabs me. From there I usually get a verse or maybe several ideas for verses and a chorus. I seldom finish a song in one sitting -- I have to let the song breathe and then revisit it over the next days, weeks, months, sometimes even years. I’ll play it live and see how it feels. The last thing to come together is usually the subject of the song. I don’t feel a need to spell everything out or tell a complete narrative, I like to write in snapshots and incomplete images all scattered about. Then I edit -- taking some parts away, repeating others, maybe add a bridge -- until it makes sense to me.”

Jason seldom sits down with the planned intention of writing a song. When he tries that, generally nothing comes. Says Jason: “I just have to let things come out and let the process unfold.”

And those that buy My Wiser Side are the benefactors of that unfolding process. “Take Me Down” skims auditory ingredients from a country recipe then builds a crafty, catchy song that’s wordsmithed to near perfection. “Better Habits” could be a 1940’s foot-tapper playing on a Victrola, with it’s soft percussion and playful guitar. “New Friends” has a bluesy touch.

And that’s one of the many appealing things about this CD -- although it has a general uniform sound, the style of songs vary widely, including the depth and insight of the lyrics. Even when you come across a song like “Enemy,” which is fairly bland musically, Jason puts words together in such a way that you can’t help but listen intently, drinking in the story he tells.

The Jack Johnson and Ryan Adams comparisons are inevitable from a musical standpoint, with maybe a touch of Ray Lamontagne from his Trouble days. The likeness is apt, but on the same token, Jason stands on his own -- these aren’t copycat songs by a person trying to be someone else.

For the first time ever for a CD I’ve reviewed, I’m giving My Wiser Side five buses. This is quality work and an incredible set of individual songs that also work beautifully together as a collection. You walk away from the CD truly believing you know a bit more about Jason Quicksall and, somehow, you’re a better person for it.

If you see Jason perform, you’re just as likely to catch him solo as you are to find him leading a five-piece, thanks to his relationship with such bands as the Floorwalkers and Nova Madrugada. He hosts a songwriters’ round called Cowtown Round with Jesse Henry (of Jesse Henry and the Royal Tycoons) at the Rumba Cafe on Mondays where they often get touring acts to take part. Jason also hosts an open mic at the Rumba on Tuesdays. His next band shows are on Jan. 19 and Feb. 2 at Andyman’s Treehouse.

My Wiser Side is available at Lost Weekend Records and on iTunes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I live about an hour and a half north of C-bus and I've been attending Jason's shows these last three years when he swings through this neck of the woods. All I can say is if you live there in the big city and you haven't seen Jason then you're really missing out. He's great to see live, whether he's playing with a band or solo. His lyrics are very open and honest. But more than that Jason just has an engaging stage presence that never gets old. Go see him play sometime and be sure to ask him to play his version of "Rubber Ducky" too!