Welcome to Strangers Almanac, a twice-a-month column devoted to singer-songwriters. Here, co-columnist Jason Gonulsen and I will write about some of our favorites—artists we’ve loved for years, and others we’ve only heard for a few months…and, of course, everything in between. We hope that you, the reader, can chime in and suggest your favorites, as well. Don’t be a stranger; we’re just an e-mail away.
A few years ago, my long distance friend and fellow music-obsessed freak set me up on an aural blind date. Considering that Andy had introduced me to and received frank feedback from me on a number of potential gentleman suitors (Joseph Arthur, Mason Jennings, Jesse Malin) by that point in time, he had a right to be confident – alright, overly confident – that this blind date would result in a long lasting relationship.
And he was right. From the moment I purchased Jason Collett’s Idols of Exile upon his oh-so-right recommendation, I knew that it was pretty much L-U-V from the start.
I’ll go ahead and admit that that I’m a total sucker for anything with even a slight alt-country twang. After all, I am one of the original Small Town Girls. Despite pulling a Joey Potter and escaping from my very own version of The Creek, I continue to evaluate any given song based on whether or not my high school drinking buddies would dig it. Would patrons be appalled if the tune “accidentally” blared through the jukebox speakers at the S&S Tavern? Would the sleeping dog in the corner of the bar wake up to howl in misery? Would it suffice as the soundtrack to my day tripping down country, cornstalk-lined roads? Would my dad like it?
It didn’t take long to answer “yes” to all of these questions in reference to Jason Collett. While listening to Idols for the first time ever, it seriously felt like I had completed an eHarmony matchmaking questionnaire, and track after track off the album proved that I had found my true soul mate. And even though he’s from Canada, I think he really gets me. The lyrics off Idols are filled with wistful sentiment, hangovers, hope, and even self-deprecation. That’s me in a nutshell.
Of course, being the paranoid female that I am, I couldn’t totally settle down with Collett without rummaging around in his past a little bit. Once Idols confirmed he was too good to be true, I decided there must be something ugly lurking in his history. But what I found was earlier music that further drew me to him and offered glimpses of the subtle evolution of sound that was to occur across his future albums. Songs like “Gabe” and “Tiny Ocean of Tears” off Motor Motel Love Songs indicate a preference for genre blurring, drifting among ‘60s pop, rustic folk, and classic rock.
And now, Collett has released his fifth studio album, Here’s to Being Here, and it solidifies my undying devotion to this music. The title acknowledges the simple satisfaction granted from showing up to the party day in and day out, and the songs themselves become a piggyback ride that will thankfully transport listeners from the depths of winter to a newfound optimism for spring. For me, Collett’s music invariably captures a warmer season, comfortably sliding between buoyant energy and sleepy, lawn chair immobility. Songs like “Roll on Oblivion” and “Out of Time” are primed and ready for road trips and backyard barbeques.
Here’s to Being Here has definitely given new life to my already lengthy romance with Collett’s sound, one that began with mere infatuation but has transformed into a serious commitment. As long as I’m treated to the same countrified fare, chock full of honest expression – and maybe, on occasion, flowers for no reason – I think I’ll stick around.
Jason Collett Videos:
He said it: