Jonathan Wilson — Dixie Blur (March 6, 2020)
•★• Hudební polymath vypráví publicistovi (Felix Rowe) o nahrávání svého nového alba v Nashvillu, produkování Father Johna Mistyho a vstoupení do bot Davida Gilmoura.
•★• Co vás zavedlo do Nashvillu, abyste nahráli Dixie Blur s živou kapelou, než abyste pracovali sami ve svém vlastním studiu jako obvykle?
•★• Album bylo rozřezáno za pouhých šest dní. „Bylo to tak rychlé, že to bylo rozostřeno. Odtud název, Dixie Blur. A opravdu existuje kouzlo, které se objevuje, když hudebníci hrají spolu v místnosti a vytvářejí tu jednu konzistentní věc v reálném čase, něco je vytvářeno kolektivní energií, kterou nelze znovu vytvořit jinak,“ říká Wilson. „Je to jako jiná strana, víš? Něco jako osobní, unplugged, právě jsem se dostal z cest. Myslím, že je to nejvíce posazené na zemi a emotivní hudebně i lyricky, jaké jsem kdy vytvořil.“
•★• Spolupráce s kapelou z Nashvillu dala Wilsonovi stejný pocit, jaký měl jako dítě, a procházel spolu s těmi bluegrassovými kapelami. Tato úroveň muzikantství je něco, bylo to v tolika sezeních. Bylo zábavné hrát na této crack session kapele některé z nejvíce stoner~canyon melodií a sledovat, jak si zapisují své speciální Nashvillovy žebříčky se svými čísly, symboly a diamanty ... oni tomu říkají „hillbilly aritmetika.“
Birth name: Jonathan Spencer Wilson
Born: December 30, 1974, Forest City, North Carolina, U.S.
Origin: Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles
Genres: Folk, psychedelic, rock, country, R&B
Location: Los Angeles, California
Album release: March 6, 2020
Recording Location: Fivestar Studios, Los Angeles, CA
Record Label: Bella Union
01. Just for Love 3:16
02. ’69 Corvette 4:22
03. New Home 3:46
04. So Alive 4:50
05. In Heaven Making Love 2:52
06. Oh Girl 4:57
07. Pirate 3:22
08. Enemies 3:48
09. Fun for the Masses 3:06
10. Platform 3:35
11. Riding the Blinds 4:48
12. El Camino Real 3:06
13. Golden Apples 3:20
14. Korean Tea 6:04
by Jim Hynes | March 3, 2020 |
•★• Singer~songwriter, multi~instrumentalist, producer Jonathan Wilson had set a high bar for Dixie Blur, coming off his widely acclaimed 2018 Rare Birds and two previously hailed solo albums. He’d taken that sound about as far as he could, realizing he needed to take a completely different tact for both the writing and the recording. The songs hearken back to the L.A.~based musician’s southern roots in North Carolina. It almost seems like a cliché now to say “most personal album yet” but in this case, Wilson combines the bluegrass, country and Americana sounds he was raised on, a detour from the kind of music he’s been making since he relocated to Los Angeles 15 years ago.
•★• The recording process was much different too. Instead of building the album piece by piece, as he had done on his solo projects, at the urging of Steve Earle, he went to Nashville to record the album live with the city’s best players. They include as top~notch a group as one could tap including Mark O’Connor (fiddle), Kenny Vaughan (guitar), Dennis Crouch (bass), Russ Pahl (pedal steel), Jim Hoke (woodwinds, harmonica), Jon Radford (drums) and Drew Erickson (keyboards). Wilson co~produced with Pat Sansone of Wilco.
•★• Wilson has released a couple of single and a video already. “So Alive” is a rumination on a love that arrived perfectly in tune and on time, a reunion really, as the song says that is both familiar and ‘from the unreal” Wilson says. “I sing that there are angels still among us, I believe that wholeheartedly…It was one of the first things we cut with Mark O’Connor, Dennis Crouch, and the rest of the band. We cut it all live at Cowboy Jack Clement’s Sound Emporium Studio, nothing is overdubbed on the track.” About another single, the Tex~Mex accordion~driven “In Heaven Making Love,” he comments, “I wanted to write a song about a perfect evening, something worth remembering. A song about carrying letters of rock & roll freedom all over the world.” He adds, “So happy to share this new music with Cousin Kenny Vaughn taking that sweet guitar break and the legend Mark O’ Connor playing that fiddle solo. I remember the moment clear as a bell.” The video for recently released, half~spoken, whisperingly sung “69 Corvette”, features in~studio footage of the recording, but more importantly, includes personal home movies from his upbringing that help illustrate the narrative of Dixie Blur.
•★• Wilson formed some strong impressions working with these talented musicians. He coaxed Mark O’Connor into session work for the first time since 1990, with O’Connor insisting the tracks be cut live, no overdubs. Wilson comments on the group at large, “…It was fun to play some of the more stoner canyon~ey tunes for this crack session band and watch them write up their special Nashville charts with their numbers, symbols, and diamonds. …they call it ‘hillbilly arithmetic’.” He goes on, “The album was cut in only six days. “It was so fast it was a blur.” Thus, the title. However, this by no means a simply done album — it offers plenty lyrically and musically.
•★• The ambiance created by these first~call session players, especially the melding of O’Connor’s fiddle and Pahl’s pedal steel, creates a consistently warm texture throughout. For example, contrast the ballad~like “69 Corvette” with “I’m So Alive” which begins up~tempo and slides back into mid~tempo before the faster tempo resumes. The texture of the sound remains steady through the changes. Wilson’s songs have drama too, most notably the desert~like vibe of “Riding the Blinds,” or “For the Masses” and even the piano~driven “O Girl.” Wilson can crank it up to anthemic levels too as he does on “Enemies.” “El Cameo Reel” obviously owes to bluegrass and is a terrific vehicle for O’Connor while the lush “Golden Apples” is simply sublime. The finger~picked guitar and elegant piano in the closing “Korean Tea” if further evidence of Wilson’s musical range.
•★• This generous outpouring of songcraft from Wilson is one to savor over many listens. It’s the perfect hot toddy for these winter days, or, said another way, a harbinger of early spring.
About the author: Jim Hynes
• Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and formerly Variety. He was a listener~supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live Music Host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.