The Magnolia Sessions is an acclaimed new singer/songwriter series which launched in early September 2020. The series showcases bluegrass, dark country, and folk singer/songwriter acts in an intimate outdoor setting at the Anti-Corporate Music/Black Matter Mastering headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. Each instalment features a different artist, some with additional guest musicians, who perform a live album of sorts.
Jason Dea West is an American troubadour who sings what he lives and lives what he sings. Wests’ poignant lyrics are brilliantly blended with vintage country, folk and blues, and timely sensibilities. Jason never strays far from the anarchic punk-folk roots of his beloved former band Barefoot Surrender and his celebrated current band Intuitive Compass. Jason’s younger days as a busker and freight train hopper fostered his keen sense of road-inspired American musical history. Jason resides in the remote Applegate Valley in the Siskiyou mountain range of Oregon.
The album opens with `Build Me a Lover` and although it`s just Jason`s vocals, an acoustic guitar, and a harmonica there`s such an expansive sound. The fist line of the song was a beauty “Well you see this towns been cruel to me, but it`s taught me many things, the thing I like most `bout this town, is leaving it again” A number that relates the life of this lonesome drifter with another line “rambling man has no destiny” giving testament to this but he does have a lover down south who doesn`t think he meets her expectations. There was a bluesy feel to `Lone Wolf` a tale of a solitary figure who roams from town to town, working where he can get it, waking up in South Dakota one day and Minnesota the next. There`s a delightful harmonica solo midway through that really enhances this feeling of social isolation. Wonderful stuff.
`Roll Home Lucinda` is a bright uplifting love song. The intricate guitar picking is a joy to behold and I loved the way the singer painted a picture of a land bare and dry, of cayotes wailing and strange objects in the sky, possibly UFO`s, but most of all it`s an ode to his sweetheart Lucinda. A tale of longing for home comes with the ballad `Make A New Start` where the raconteur is packing up and heading back to his family. The line “help me pack up all my things, I’m going back to where I’m from, but it ain`t really where I’m from, no I’ve learnt to like it some, there are some people there I love, they seem to fit me like a glove” is so simple but so eloquent, evocative and descriptive.
Jason introduces `Country Livin` Blues` by relating how he has changed since his last visit to Nashville. The number is a sort of ragtime blues offering with some intricate finger picking and harmonica pitched alongside at times. The song paints a picture of someone who has adapted to city life but inevitably has that homing instinct for the country and the mountains.
Jason is joined by Benjamin Tod, lead singer and guitarist for the Lost Dog Street Band on the last three numbers. Benjamin had been in a car accident earlier on the day of the recording and was absent for the first part of the session. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt despite his truck being wrecked. When he arrived, he walked straight out and joined Jason in the session. The guys begin with `California Way` with Jason hollering at the start. There is an obvious chemistry between the two musicians as the guitar and banjo really complement each other on this quite dark tale of the narrator hunting down a possible fugitive.
`Dreams Ain`t My Own` is a sort of countrified melancholic waltz that glides along with guitar, banjo, and harmonica. The storyteller recognises and relates that people love and care for him, but he seems to be in a place of despair and despondency. Heart-breaking stuff but at the same time totally compelling. The session closes out with a cover of the Townes Van Zandt classic ‘I’ll Be Here In The Morning’ and it`s a faithful tribute with Benjamin joining Jason on the chorus. If there was ever a number that JDW should cover it`s definitely this one.
The session was recorded in the dark under a magnolia tree and you can hear crickets and cicadas in the background which adds to the atmosphere. I’d never heard of Jason Dea West and have to say why isn`t this guy a major star? He has a couple of albums with “Journey In Today” and “Never Go Home” so I’ll certainly be checking these out. This bluegrass, county folk artist has the wonderful ability of packing a life story in a three-minute song where you not only think that you are there but can almost feel the pain that the subject is going through. Jason Dea West is a bard, poet, and superb storyteller, no frills just thrills.
A Country folk come bluegrass Bob Dylan.
Rating 9 /10