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Jason Hawk Harris (from Thin Places available on Bloodshot Records) (by Brian Rock)
Americana singer-songwriter Jason Hawk Harris pens a haunting, heartfelt eulogy to his mother on his second album, Thin Places. In 2019 Harris was riding high on the positive reviews of his debut release, Love & The Dark. In the ensuing three years, his tour van was stolen, his record label declared bankruptcy, his tour plans were shuttered by Covid, and his mother passed away. It was more hardship than any one person should have to endure… but hardships can be overcome – except for the loss of a loved one. The finality of death offers no second chances. Working through his grief, Jason Hawk Harris ponders the thin line between comfort and devastation. How one bad phone call can change your life forever. Digging deeper, he wonders if we can reach across the thin veil that separates us from our beloved departed. Deeper still, he wonders if this thin life is just a dream that we awaken from at death. Heavy topics to be sure. But Harris explores them with a lyrical and musical sophistication that blends Country, Folk, Pop, and even Classical compositions into a mesmerizing sonic landscape that defies classification. He plumbs his emotional depths, and, in so doing, achieves new musical heights.
“Jordan And The Nile” is an ethereal hymn of the spirit overcoming the physical. With a sparse musical backdrop that combines a string ensemble, piano, and accordion, Harris mourns ‘I’m half an orphan since she went that way, she’s on that hill right off the interstate’. As he pours out his grief, the string section rises and falls like the fluttering of angel’s wings ascending to take one’s soul home, descending to comfort the ones left behind. Dealing with his loss, Jason Hawk Harris continues ‘I’m feeling heavy, but I see the light. My world is dark, but my abyss is bright. And even if it takes a little while, one day the Jordan gonna swallow the Nile’. The strings flurry to a climax, joined by a bass drum, as he finds the comfort and courage to march into the future.
“Bring Out the Lilies” begins suddenly before the last note of the previous song fades out; the abrupt segue between songs enhanced by a sudden change in musical styles when Baroque musical stylings are transformed into Salsa influenced Country rhythms. Recalling his mother’s funeral service, he describes the flowers, their bright colors contrasted by his black attire. He notes how his mother’s nails have been freshly painted for the viewing, voicing the opinion that ‘she still loos dead’. He rolls his eyes as well-wishers shake his hand and say ‘it’s part of God’s plan’. He recalls the sermon’s reading of ‘O Death, where is thy sting’ and he answers ‘if they really want to know, they can just ask me’. The music continues merrily along as Harris is caught in a surreal twilight zone where everyone around him seems to be celebrating his greatest loss.
“Shine A Little Light” is a full throttle, Bakersfield Honky Tonk boot-scooter, yet, lyrically, Harris is still dealing with his grief. Against the rollicking guitar, piano, and pedal steel he sings ‘I’ve been drinking like a fool since your funeral, and I ain’t got much money left to lose’. Trying to cope with his grief and still function at the same time, he asks for help from the person he misses most. Pleading, ‘shine a little light from the other side. Oh, shine a little light on me’, Harris still seeks his mother’s guidance. “Roll” reveals more of Harris’ torn psyche. Again, his lyrics of anguish are countered by an uplifting musical score. If you’ve ever wondered what a Honky Tonk/80’s power ballad mash up would sound like, this is it. Still grieving, Harris stares into “The Abyss”. Here, he uses staccato Folk rhythms to recall his last moments with his mother. Remembering the last time he kissed her cold hand in the ICU unit, he confesses, ‘this little light of mine ain’t shinin’’. Later he shares ‘I had a dream that she came back. All silver and gold, she asks for a smoke and takes the loveliest drag. She says “Honey rest, and go back to sleep. And when you wake up let this light be enough for you to let go of me’’. The string ensemble adds an otherworldly element as he sings ‘she smiled, and the abyss filled up with light’.
Having faced the darkest depths of his grief, Harris is finally able to say “I’m Getting By”. Raucous Bakersfield rhythms propel the song forward as he sings, ‘I’m alright. I’m doing fine. I might lose it now and then, but I’m getting by. One day at a time. I miss you every day and that’s all right, but I’m getting by’. Buoyed by the dream/vision of his mother, Harris is able to move on. “So Damn Good” sees Harris finally open up to another, and find comfort in his lover. Lively Josh Ritter-inspired rhythms accompany his new outlook as he sings ‘I don’t know why people die. Or what goes on on the other side. And I’ve been so lost since I got found. But one thing I’ve got no doubt about, is you look so damn good right now’. “Keep Me in Your Heart for a While” sees Harris confiding to his lover that his mourning is still an ongoing process. The lushly orchestrated ballad is a gorgeous plea for patience and understanding as he grapples with the last stages of grief. Weepy pedal steel and violins create a mood of sublime sorrow. “White Berets” concludes Harris’ emotional journey with a philosophical fusion of Classical music, Folk, Honky-Tonk, and Cajun. The music captures the feel of the second line rhythms for a New Orleans funeral celebration. The lyrics ponder the living and the dead and juxtapose their normal status. Seeing death as a kind of awakening, he sings ‘all I am is bones it seems. I try to scream but I can’t breathe. And that marching line is coming quick. My coffin shakes with every kick… I ain’t in this place alone. This marching line’s gonna wake you too’. A joyous jubilee where the living and dead come together; the song is both an anticipation of a heavenly, happily ever after, and a call to celebrate the here and now while we have it.
Devastatingly beautiful, Thin Places is an intensely personal insight into the unfolding stages of grief. The lyrics will wring you out and then redeem you through despair, confusion, and finally hope. Jason Hawk Harris’ music will make your soul dance even as your heart mourns. His classical flourishes elevate traditional Country and Folk to a whole new level. It is a true hymn for the heartbroken. (by Brian Rock)
Listen and buy the music of Jason Hawk Harris from AMAZON
Please go to the Jason Hawk Harris website for more purchase and artist information
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