Album Review

Aaron Lee Tasjan “In the Blazes” album review

Aaron Lee Tasjan - In The Blazes

It doesn’t really matter what comes out of Aaron Lee Tasjan’s mouth, there is simply an inherent likeability about this guy and his voice. You a fiery red right wing, hell bent on having your guns and your Jesus? Well, even when Tasjan sings “you got so many guns, you could start a war. I though that’s what you had Jesus for”, you will probably be bopping your head along to his swagger and style. He has an innate ability to take very obviously political, taboo and slightly ‘blue’ subjects and add a flavor to them that makes a point, but also grooves like all holy hell. I love this man.

he latest from ALT is a 10 track collection that contains hints of grooves ala The Band and a funky, tubey key track, spoken blues stylings similar to that of his friend and contemporary Todd Snider, but with a panache and elegance that is all Tasjan. This guy can do no wrong in my book.

The first tune on the record is reminiscent of what might have come out of late night/early morning sessions at Big Pink. There is a timeless groove and tasty tape goodness to the flow and feel of this tune. It f*ckin grooves hard, man. Groovy. And that is just the first rack on the record…and there isn’t a bad or even mediocre, or even subpar. Sh*t man, every song on this record is aces to me.

Tom Petty weaves his way into the tapestry of the songwriter’s music in “E.N.S.A.A.T”.  The harmonies and the arrangement has a very Heartbreakers-esque feel, and the sentiment of the song is equally so. The opening line is an absolutely heart wrenching, but poignant reflection on the gentrification of a neighborhood and how a town (or part of a town) once reserved for artists, folks of the struggling persuasion, and sink a whole lot of heart into their art becomes “the cool” or hip place to be and can change overnight. There is heartbreak in Tasjan’s voice as he exclaims:

Well the kids in this town don’t have a clue

They’re as white as the collar that they painted blue

The songwriter’s ability to add humor and light to something that very obviously troubles him and hits a lot of folks pretty hard is uncanny. He is one in a million when it comes to spinning stories in this fashion. This, my friends, is brilliance.

‘Sixty-Six Dollar Blues’ is a burner that gives Jerry Lee Lewis a run for his money. The piano, the fierce guitar solos, and Aaron’s voice grasping you by the ears and telling you to listen the hell up. If you don’t move a bit when you listen to this track, well then, pull the plug because you don’t have any life left in your bones. Another take on the struggles of being an artist but with a spin that has some infectious vibes, killer instrumentation that rocks, but maintains the focus on songwriting that matters and is beyond what most can even strive for. Smart, funny, and meaningful: a killer combination.

Aaron Lee Tasjan dug his way into my heart very quickly with his EP “Telling Stories to the Wall”, the filled out arrangements on ‘Blazes’ show a different side of the writer than what I was first introduced to, but the keen, sharp focus on lines that cut like the sharpest of medical grade steel certainly do not get lost in the mix here. Tasjan just proves with this full length that he is a mainstay in the modern day songwriting landscape coming out of (East) Nashville and one of the most talented and promising writers in Americana and Roots music today.

I am going to go ahead and make a very strong and perhaps premature assertion and say that “In the Blazes” is the best record released in 2015. No doubt. I stand by that.

Thanks for the review and the enthusiasm. I haven't heard him before, but I've listened to enough short clips to think you are right that this is a fine album. I'm skeptical it is the best out this year, with my personal favorites coming from Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton so far. I will keep an open mind and ears though:)