Thursday, December 26, 2013

Jamestown Revival Out In California

Jamestown Revival
As Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance grew up together in the small town of Magnolia, Texas, they would frequently disappear for hours and explore their old family land and dilapidated ranch house. And it was there, on the back porch, that the two friends eventually propped up a pair of old speakers.

Many days played out just like that. The would spend the day exploring the land and the early evenings listening and mimicking a diverse assortment of musicians, anything and everything from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Eventually, after every acre was explored and most records played out, the duo decided to pack up their belongings and head to Los Angeles by way of Austin. And somewhere along the way, they started to perfect a blend of deep South and western folk rock.

Four tracks off the California EP introduces a full-length ahead.  

The California EP features three songs and one cover, all self-produced by the band. It quickly captures the essence of their sound, a grassroots revivalist quality that they say plays best off the back porch. Maybe it does. But for most people, it sounds sharp almost anywhere.

California (Cast Iron Soul) kicks off the album with an ode to the state they've started to think of as a home base. Like so many musicians, the sprawling coastal city drew Clay and Chance as far west as they could travel to find both hope and inspiration. The song conveys it.

With complementing harmonies, Jamestown Revival captures the mysterious allure of California. The lyrics carry the sentiment of many who have tread the same path, experiencing an unexplainable feeling of freedom that comes from crossing the mountains and reaching the ocean. At the same time, the duo isn't naive about their expectations there. They know California can change who they are too.

Also on the EP is a cover of Paradise, originally written by the American country/folk legend John Prine and discovered by Kris Kristofferson. Incidentally, Prine was considered a revivalist to his generation too, becoming the central figure of folk revival in Chicago.

Jamestown Revival treats the cover tenderly, slowing down the tempo to make the song more of a lament than the way Prine approached it. They also add in an element of mystery to the track with a new arrangement that sets the chorus ahead of the verse, transforming the original open into a standalone chorus. It's a brilliant rendition. They make the song their own while honoring Prine.

Those two songs bookend Golden Age and Fur Coat Blues. The first is a rolling folk ballad that laments the end of an era. The track is haunting in that it feels like the duo pulls the tune out of the past even if the lyrics reflect on contemporary changes.

Conversely, Fur Coat Blues is an uptempo folk country blues blend. For just over two minutes they power through venerable lyrics with a casual, carefree acceptance. Suffice to say that the track reinforces the notion that things don't have to be great to take pride in the way you manage them.

While all of the songs were written in Los Angeles, the duo wanted to enhance their authenticity by finding a more rustic location to record everything. To do it, they packed up their instruments and an engineer and set out for a log cabin high within the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. They tracked 14 songs there, performed live with no headphones, and captured direct to tape. The EP includes four of those songs.

The California EP By Jamestown Revival Rocks 6.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

As a foreshadow of their upcoming full-length debut, The California EP captures the essence of Jamestown Revival. The guitar and keyboard arrangements are solid. The vocals are stunning. The songwriting is reminiscent of a quieter, more reflective time.

You can find the California EP by Jamestown Revival on Amazon. The EP can also be downloaded from iTunes. For a limited time, Fur Coat Blues can be downloaded for free from their website (email required). You can also follow them on Facebook for tour updates and showtimes.
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