The new album’s first single is very different – a bright, lively tune called Fireflies. “Fireflies are burning bright/Follow the sweet sounds into twilight/Rocking chairs on a summer night/We may never wake up again.” Such a perfect song as we hit October head on.
Portland roots-rockers the Jason Spooner Band just released “Chemical,” the fourth album for singer, guitarist and harmonica player Jason Spooner. Reed Chambers plays drums and percussion, Adam Frederick is on bass and vocals and Warren McPherson plays keys and contributes vocals. Spooner released his first album, “Lost Houses,” in 2002, but what really got my attention was “The Flame You Follow” from 2007. Spooner’s tenor voice is so warm and easy on the ears that you just want to keep listening. But it’s not just his voice, it’s the entire package.
Spooner is a consummate songwriter, weaving stories about sometimes simple, sometimes wildly complex human interactions and strife. Such was the case on “Lost Houses,” “The Flame You Follow,” 2010’s “Sea Monster” and now “Chemical.”
In “Blind Side,” on the new album, Spooner sings: “Every iron in the fire/Every message on the wire/Every siren sings a sinister song.”
From “Shrouded”: “Here among the birds and the war of words is a silence coming down/Silent as the ice and the deepest fallen snow/I watch you in the night/As you kill the light/And you quit the fight/In the place I’ve let you go.”
My current favorite is “Read Them Their Rights,” a track sprinkled with piano, Spooner’s electric guitar and just-right percussion. The song goes to a dark place and repeats the title numerous times. I asked Spooner what inspired the track. “I had been thinking a lot about how humans have really become somewhat enslaved by technology,” he said. “Despite all of the communication advancements it offers … It feels like we’re losing key parts of our abilities to truly relate to one another.”
He added that he’s also suspicious and demoralized by the extent to which we are monitored on a minute-by-minute basis over the course of the day. “By the government and ‘marketing’ entities – it feels like a very Orwellian reality these days,” he said. “No one is truly aware of where the line in the sand is in terms of what information external forces have the right to collect. It’s a scary time in a country celebrated for its inherent freedoms.”
Spooner said he awoke in the middle of the night with an image in his head of a shadowy government figure hunched over some meek citizen and that this figure was reading a list of rights, whispering into their ear as they slept. “It spawned the line, ‘try to read them their rights while they’re asleep in the night.'” All I know is that I dig the song and I’m not the only one. Spooner told me that Sirius XM The Loft added it to their rotation.
The album’s first single is very different – a bright, lively tune called “Fireflies.” Spooner asked fans to submit summer-themed video clips and photos and the result is a charming video montage for the song: “Fireflies are burning bright/Follow the sweet sounds into twilight/Rocking chairs on a summer night/We may never wake up again.” Such a perfect song as we hit October head on.
What’s more, the Jason Spooner Band jumps all over the genre map. It knows how to get bluesy and can rock out with the best of them. “Blind Side” even swerves into reggae before leaping into funky and back again. Each musician texturizes the songs with bold strokes and subtle impressions that were mastered with finesse by musical genius Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering. Jason Hearst at HEARSTUDIOS recorded and mixed “Chemical” and deserves his share of the credit.
Ultimately, though, it all comes down to Jason Spooner. His vision and sheer talent have resulted in another substantial album that is getting airplay at several radio stations around the country. He and his band spend a good deal of time on the road, so this is a superb opportunity to see them in a small venue here in Maine.
I was curious about the name of the album. Spooner was happy to share. “Sound unquestionably creates chemical reactions in people,” he said. “A lot of my most profound realizations and emotional connections all came through listening to my heroes create music. It’s a universal entity and it’s important to reckon with its power and influence.”
That wasn’t all. “I also think a lot about the chemistry of creating music and doing so with a band of individuals who have played together for a number of years, not to mention the psychology of songwriting,” Spooner said. “The notebook is a laboratory of sorts, the rehearsal space is a laboratory and the studio is the ultimate laboratory. There is a wide array of variables, both internal and external, that affect the outcome when writing, playing and performing. … It’s a very chemical experience in my mind.”
“Chemical” ends with the acoustic tune “Spell”: “I can’t help myself/Try to tell myself/I’m burning clean.” So damn good.
Jason Spooner Band. jasonspooner.com. 8:15 p.m. Monday. Slates, 167 Water St., Hallowell. $15. slatesrestaurant.com