August 22, 2015 by Jay Minkin
There is excitement and celebration with the music coming out of East Nashville. A new wave of singer/songwriters is channeling the outlaw spirit crafting stories of relationships, trains, and alcohol mixed with cannabis. I first caught wind of Aaron Lee Tasjan by simply being at the right place at the right time. He happened to have a showcase slot in the High Watt at last year’s Americana Music Association conference’s closing night. The kid from New Albany, Ohio located just outside of Columbus who performed a short and very sweet set was one of the highlights of the entire week. I hitched onto his Indiegogo bandwagon in November and happy to report that his debut album In The Blazes is scheduled for an October 6th release. Tasjan rolled through Cleveland at the end of July touring with the lovely and sweet Lilly Hiatt on a summer tour and from what I heard that night, In The Blazes sounds like it’s worth the wait.
There is listening to an Aaron Lee Tasjan record and then there is seeing one of his shows. His dry, satiric wit is comedy genius playing “Captain Folk” the roadie warming up the audience with his trucker hat, vintage Carrera sunglasses, and magic marker t-shirt covering John Prine, Todd Snider, Shel Silverstein, and Billy Joe Shaver songs. I quick trip to the back of the stage to turn the shirt around and change into his regular spectacles and hat brought Tasjan back to the microphone spinning stories to set up his set list beautifully.
The soon to be 29 year old artists began playing in garage bands until joining the high school jazz ensemble. After winning an award performing a selection from the Duke Ellington songbook at New York’s Lincoln Center, he was offered a scholarship to the esteemed Berklee College of Music. But like many others, the party lifestyle became more of a priority than his studies, so Tasjan left for Brooklyn and a band called Semi-Precious Weapons. From there his resume includes stints playing guitar for The New York Dolls and Drivin N Cryn. All along Tasjan would be writing songs and playing solo gigs in-between being a hired hand. After paying his dues and learning the ropes, Tasjan finally decided he was ready to make a go of it alone and released his first Ep Crooked River Burning in 2014.
Tasjan began writing songs in a haze inspired by Guy Clark and John Prine. The successful campaign placed Tasjan into New Monkey Studio in Los Angeles with his good friend Eli Thompson producing and engineering the project. The ten track live recording session took seven days with the only overdubbing being backing vocals and piano. Helping out were Dan Bailey on drums and David Vandervelde on guitar, piano, and vocals.
From the opening chords of “The Trouble With Drinking”, Tasjan grabs the listener with a single that may one day be a cult classic. Wetting the listener’s appetite for more, some nice lead guitar highlights “The Dangerous Kind” and “Made in America” which are old school rockers. Some retro ala Band of Joy can be heard in the gritty twang of “Git Gone” while the toe tapper “Lucinda’s Room” bleeds the lyrics Drunken Angel/How’d you get so lonely. Two beautiful storyteller ballads are “Judee is a Punk” that’s more about Jesus freaks and one about stuff that’s cool in the sunshine state called “Florida Man” with some nice piano fills. A garage punk song is tossed into the mix with “Bitch Can’t Sing” and a story about Tasjan and fellow musician Tim Easton titled “$66.00 Blues” closes out the album with a rock-a-billy finish. The best song of all is titled “E.N.S.A.A.T.” which translates to East Nashville song about a train. Some great lyrical content embedded into the track like I need you like a teenager needs a song or Just think about things you’d change about your past are intertwined with some nasty guitar riffs.
Aaron Lee Tasjan has proven he’ll be an outlaw gunslinger to be reckoned with when In The Blazes hits the record store shelves. There is no doubt this underdog phenom’s album will be on many year-end lists … and enters the clubhouse vying for Album of the Year.