Jason Hawk Harris: Love & The Dark (Bloodshot Records)
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I have had trouble before articulating, in writing, the style(s) of a particular artist. I am truly at a loss when it comes to Jason Hawk Harris’s “Love & The Dark”. It has at least 31 flavors, if not more. It’s country as all get out but it has some great rock and roll sensibilities that won’t alienate the people that say they “don’t like country”. There is also a very whimsical, almost Broadway show feel to it that I rarely hear when I am listening to a country record. Some of the cord changes and instrumentation is not the traditional country inventory of instruments and arrangements.
To say the past two years have been tumultuous for Jason, that would be a huge understatement. Jason’s mother passed away from complications due to alcoholism, Jason’s father was sued by the King of Morocco and went bankrupt, Jason’s sister was diagnosed with MS and gave birth to a baby with cerebral palsy. As if that wasn’t enough, Jason was struggling with his own demons regarding alcoholism and drug addiction.
In spite of all those tragic events in Jason’s life, he still is a “glass half-full” kind of guy and used these events to reinvent himself. A literal phoenix rising from the ashes. Love & The Dark is the evidence of this rebirth. And all events are disclosed herein, warts and all. The honesty and vulnerability is what sets this album apart from most others. That, and the fact that the vocals and playing are absolutely brilliant.
The song that displays most of these qualities, including shifting genres in the same song, is I’m Afraid (Track 6). This song is punk, rockabilly, classic country, southern rock, and jazz (yes jazz). In addition to the searing energy of this number, there is an almost improvisational feel to it where everyone is trading instrument licks. Absolutely fantastic.
Addiction is a theme that runs through this album. Honesty and musical integrity is also present in very large quantities. Cussing At The Light (Track 2) is such a powerful song about addiction and the games we all play to justify our compulsions or weaknesses. I just can’t get enough of Jason’s ability to tell a story and still keep a song entertaining and moving. Cussing At The Light does that and so much more.
And right into the next track like that winning piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Confused (Track 3) is an upbeat number that is magnificent. The piano playing in this song is off the charts. It’s boogie woogie with a hint and jazz and classical. That goes for the guitar parts as well. Wow, this song cooks!
I hope my position is clear: this is a must have album for 2019. This is a 100 on the listenability index. Combine that with insightful, honest, and creative song writing and you have something quite special. I suspect we will be hearing more from Mr. Harris in the future.