Jason Hawk Harris: Formaldehyde, Tobacco, And Tulips (Free Man Records)
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Another truly great release this year! I still cannot believe it. Just when I think there cannot be any more, there are. How does that happen? I am really not sure. I do know that the five songs on this EP are all heartfelt and completely honest. I absolutely look for musical honesty, and Jason is one honest musician. This music is his and he isn’t taking musical direction from anyone. Damn skippy, I say. I am fortunate Jason did not acquiesce because his music will stand the test of time, for along time.
Is art country a genre? If not, it is now, I just coined it. This is art country. It is true to the musical roots of real country music, yet it is also symphonic, using sounds and instruments not usually heard in the context of country music. But it is raw and honest and is what country music is and should be all about: songwriting. I n this instance. It is about way more that just songwriting. This encompasses so much more. Imagine interpreting country music through the lens and filter of an orchestral conductor. That is Jason Hawk Harris.
This Houston, TX native sings with that wonderful twang in his voice that has made its presence known on Formaldehyde, Tobacco, And Tulips. It is written all over it. You can take the cowboy out of Houston but…………..Well, you all know the rest. It is clear as spring water on Formaldehyde, Tobacco, And Tulips. Although there are instruments and composition that are foreign to country music, Jason incorporates everything so well. You may not be sure it is country music. It is. It is because I say it is and it’s in Twangri-La.
The music is really grand and every one of the five tracks are gems. You can’t go wrong with any of the songs. They are all well written and well constructed. TakeThe Smoke And The Stars(Track 5), for instance. There are some of the most serene pedal steel solos on this track that they appear to be other worldly. They are ethereal and comforting.
This song starts off with about one minute of truly mind blowing music. It is a mind altering experience and back in sixty seconds. And the female vocals are special. They blend so dag gummed well that they are tangled and unable to untangle them.
It’s now time to introduce all the players on this EP: Jason Hawk Harris on vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and percussion; Phil Glenn on piano and violin; Kevin Brown on drums and percussion; Natalie Nicoles on vocals and harmonium; Jonathan Ahrens on bass; Mark Lavengood on lap steel and dobro; Joel Martin on pedal steel; Brad Lindsay on electric guitar; Andy Freeman on bass; and Rachel Baiman on vocals.
That is one heck of a line up and it is well deserved. Jason has a great album on his hands and under his belt. My only regret, as with all EPs that I like, it is too short. I always want more when it’s good. And this is very, very good. You will certainly love it lots.