One of the agenda items on this trip to AmericanaFest was to catch a Jason Erie set given that NPR hailed Erie the Bruce Springsteen of 2021.
The Wirebird Records launch party at the Bowery Vault in Nashville fulfilled that quest. A slew of artists and friends of Jason Erie performed before and after him throughout the afternoon and into the evening..
Erie’s new album, Tiny Fires, is filled with thought-provoking lyrics, and paints a picture of dystopia in American society. The album was released on the Wirebird Records label on March 25.
Americana Highways caught Erie’s set on Sept 17 amongst the congestion of AmericanaFest choices around town on that Saturday evening.
Erie’s set started with a rock tempo on an unreleased song “Born For This Town” – an introduction to who Erie is and where he’s from that has built him to ensure the challenges any artist can face in Nashville.
“Amazon” followed about the crush of commercialism and the angst-ridden pace of life matched by the frenetic pace of the piano.
The title song from Tiny Fires followed, which was written during the surge of the Covid pandemic. The song also speaks to an unsettling sense many Americans have across the political spectrum. It seems to be an anthem about uncertainty: “Outside of this house, the world’s turned upside down / I hear they’re lighting tiny fires, and no one’s trying to put them out”
“Bathtub” was inspired by Erie observing the outlets aren’t grounded in his bathroom and the bad results which could result. If you’ve got bread and toaster nearby, you could be toast.
A great wailing guitar solo fits in with the feeling from the other elements making for a working train yard on “Belly Up.” The song expresses working class themes in a fashion like those penned by BJ Barham of American Aquarium. ”Belly Up” captures the spirit of what built America.
Erie dug back into 2018’s album The Art of Letting Go with the song “Lorelei” about a woman whodidn’t make it through recovery in a halfway house. The bright notes on the song belie the tragedy. Here’s a sample of the lyrics:
Call me a coward, cause I can’t find the tears / You look more alive in that cheap pine box / Than you have in years / They say that it’s over and death was the cure / Oh I love you honey now I’m pissed at the lord / Oh the needle adores you / Was it worth dying for
Erie then introduced ”Runaway Heart” as written for his wife, about unplugging from saving the world from time to time to maintain sanity. This song gained Erie a featured spot in the Kerrville Folk Festival song competition this year.
In “Ten Penny Thought” the nails which hold up the pictures on the wall, are the thoughts which hold up the memories. It’s a two minute song which hammers down the fact that we always carry our experiences from childhood.
“Lucky Ones” is a rocker co-written with two buddies during the pandemic, Irakli Gabriel and John Dennis. Faster paced with keys turned up the song which, musically, is the most Springsteen-esque on this showcase and in his catalogue.
Dennis is a member of Erie’s band. His solo showcase preceded Anana Kaye’s. Kaye and Gabriel run Duende Vision which produced Jason Erie’s music videos for Tiny Fires. Kaye’s set with partner Gabriel was just before Jason Erie, and Kaye’s set was compelling as well.
To the surprise of the band, Jason Erie broke a guitar string on “Lucky Ones.” Erie said he buys the best strings to avoid a restring on a set. “I’m not endorsed but Stringjoy here in Nashville. They’re are a great brand. They hold up to my crazy fingers.”
Maybe Erie was setting off tiny fires with his guitar play.
The audience got a sneak peek on a new song. In its current form, tentatively titled “Yellowbelly” it’s comprised of Erie’s rasp, lightly strummed acoustic and soothing, building accordion drone by band member Slice.
A final roar from Erie and wailing guitar by John Dennis reflects on the damage that he has cultivated in the art he makes on “Box Full Of Rocks.”
What was especially great about Jason Erie’s set at Bowery Vault, was that it was the full package. It consisted of a honed artist and band, listening room respect and enthusiastic crowd response in between the songs.
Check our his tour schedule and find more info here: https://www.jasoneriemusic.com
Review by Brian DeSpain