Artist: Aaron Lee Tasjan
Album: Silver Tears
Label: New West
Release Date: 10/28/2016
Coincidentally, a new LeBron James Nike commercial was unveiled as I sat down to write this, and its theme– “Come out of Nowhere”– seemed appropriate for this unbeknownst-to-most artist who has burst on to the scene with widespread acclaim already. This is Aaron Lee Tasjan’s sophomore release and debut for New West. While these solo efforts are relatively new for him, (2015’s In the Blazes) he has widely varied experience as a sideman, some of which undoubtedly informs his mix of psychedelic-pop, alt-country, new age folk, and rock ‘n’ roll. He’s pretty damn hard to pigeonhole, but rest assured that he leans more toward pop than twang, unlike some of his fellow East Nashville singer/songwriters. Some have described his range as extending from Brian Wilson to Todd Snider with hints of Tom Petty. He has an irreverent, who-cares-if-I’m-stoned approach to storytelling that’s immediately compelling and rather irresistible.
So, of course, musicians this talented don’t just literally come out of nowhere. Tasjan was awarded a jazz guitar scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, but instead set out on his own unconventional path. Whether playing guitar in the modern day New York Dolls, the inventive Semi Precious Weapons, the Neil Young-signed Everest, British roots rock band Alberta Cross, Southern rock band Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, or even as front man of the rockers Madison Square Gardeners, this latent songwriter seemingly absorbed each experience to build his own unique approach. “A lot of the stuff I did previously was never the main focal point,” Tasjan explains. “It’s all just been pieces along the way. I might have made something that will surprise people,” Tasjan admits. “I didn’t completely abandon the recipe, but I really stretched myself and pushed beyond what people might expect from me. Being true as a musician, I’m not just one thing – and a variety of styles is a way to accomplish that.”
Take a look at the way he dresses in a reflective suit and Stetson hat. This is one eccentric dude, who does not conveniently fit into one’s usual image of an East Nashville based Americana artist. In fact, Tasjan left the city to record this record in L.A., teaming again with producer and Father John Misty bassist, Eli Thomson, and a group of musicians that included solo artist David Vandervelde on guitar and lap steel, Max Hart on piano and organ, Charlie Peterson on cornet, trumpet and saxophone and drummers Frank Lenz and Dan Bailey. Thomson also manned bass and synth. Tasjan says, “Romantically, I had the idea of Tom Petty in the studio, jamming, trying to capture different feels and see where the day was,” Tasjan reveals. I wanted it to be live, to have that intensity that draws people in.” You can hear Petty’s Heartbreakers and Traveling Wilburys’ influences in tunes like “Dime,” “Till the Town Goes Dark” and, to a lesser extent, in “Little Movies.” In several places you hear “ooh-ooh-ooh” harmonies and a couple of tracks reveal a Johnny Cash Tennessee Three kind of rhythm. There’s so much going here, it’s difficult to wrap your ears around it in one listen.
“Memphis Rain” is dreamy, with vivid imagery accented with piano chords and lilting pedal steel. “Ready to Die” is one of several songs that begin as an acoustic folk song and then morphs into electric crescendos. “Refugee Blues” carries a dark, Neil Young & Crazy Horse vibe, while “On Your Side” may conjure up Simon & Garfunkel. The closing tack, “Where the Road Begins and Ends” is somewhat like acoustic Neil Young. Yes, it is that diverse. One unmistakably strong track is “12 Bar Blues,” which begins with Steve Goodman-like talking blues before moving into classic country. But wait, why are those trumpets and horns there? That’s the beauty of Tasjan – his unpredictability and creativity. Case in point – for his release today, Tasjan is performing in 12 Nashville bars, mostly dives, and can be followed on Facebook and Periscope. Visit www.aaronleetasjan.com for details and upcoming tour dates.