Being a musician in the modern era is hard. People want their music for free, records don’t sell and often musicians and bands rely almost entirely on profit from ticket sales and t-shirts to keep their stomachs and gas tanks full. That being said, people who have made the decision to play music for a living usually seem to adapt and make the most of the music industry’s ever changing landscape. After all, music is their passion; it makes them who they are. What are these musicians, writers and artists to think then when their art takes a backseat to their social media accounts, when their lyrics become less scrutinized than what they say on Twitter, when their brand is more important than the music?
“Now that the future swallows the past, its one step forward, two steps back”, Jason Collett squirms on the title track of his latest album and first in four years, Song and Dance Man. The lyrics are direct and mostly sarcastic, but Collet’s true frustration only shines through, to great effect, at the end of the sunny chorus when his voice cracks on the word “man”. It’s a great moment and brilliantly sets the stage for the feelings and themes scattered throughout the record. While this is only the song that deals directly with the aforementioned problem, the entire album has a mature lyrical vision that speaks to the absurdity of modern life while still finding love and beauty and all the other strange things within it.
While Collett’s classic voice, equal parts Petty and Young, and strong melodies carry the tracks on Song and Dance Man, Bahamas’ Afie Jurvanen’s presence helps take them to another level. His production gives a modern touch to songs largely rooted in folk rock tradition. Unexpected guitar effects, palm muted electric guitar melodies and deeply imbedded grooves prove why Jurvanen has become the integral producer of modern Canadiana. The blend of modern production and classic songwriting is best highlighted on “Forever Young is Growing Old”, whose title of could double as the thesis of the entire record.
Whether Jason Collett is taking on the inexplicable rise of American Banjo-driven-British bands on “Singing American”, crafting a perfect lullaby on “Little Sparrow” or wondering aloud on “Where Does Your Love Go?” he proves that, though he may be perturbed as he gets older, he is not a cynic. Collett sounds comfortable and wise on Song and Dance Man, which is why it is a highlight in his already strong catalogue and the most essential Canadian roots album of the year so far.
Jason Collett, Song and Dance Man
Arts & Crafts, February 5, 2016