For the past several years I have been telling folks to go listen to music by Aaron Lee Tasjan (ALT). In addition to being a bad ass guitar player the dude can flat out write a song. Whether solo or with a band, ALT is a master at writing tunes about life’s conditions. His songs are stories about characters and situations, some real some made up, they demand people listen to the words and not just enjoy the melodies. Growing up in Ohio, living in New York and now calling Nashville home he has a wide array of people, places and things to write about.
ALT has just released Crooked River Burning, a five track EP that satiates a person’s need for good music and leaves them wanting more from him. The album opens with a sparse guitar infiltrating the listener’s ear before ALT’s voice enters the fray on “Don’t Walk Away”. His vocals sound wearied as he sings about drinking too much before the song begins to build almost taking on a dismayed or angry feel. Lyrics about change, fake people and using a metaphoric crutch to get through life pull no punches as ALT sings about walking away from the truth. A perfectly placed guitar solo punctuates the song and as it reaches its crescendo things fade back into the sparse guitar that started the tune. The three songs that follow have all found a home on previous ALT releases, but they have never sounded this good. Loaded with jangly guitars and catchy lyrics the rocking “Drugs and Junk Food” hits on not always making the right life choices. The acoustic guitar picking that infiltrates a blistering electric solo is brilliant. The song “My Camera” is about more than just taking pictures. Offering to let someone look into the camera he is opening up about life. The pictures on the camera tell the truth. This is one of the best songs ALT has ever written. The words stick in your head and the accompanying music is the perfect frame for them. “Everything Is Broken” has always been one of my favorite songs from ALT. It reminds me of something you may hear from Kevn Kinney. He sings about a broken life, where nothing seems to work right and he is always in ‘fix mode’. The EP closes with the melancholy track “Number One” about loneliness and despair. It is a nice change up to the other 4 tracks.
Crooked River Burning is an album that possesses no weak spots. It highlights Aaron Lee Tasjan’s abilities as a singer/songwriter/guitar virtuoso. The EP makes listeners think about his lyrics which are much more than trivial words that sound good together. ALT never states the obvious but makes it pretty easy to understand what he is singing about. Go listen to this record and get familiar with Aaron Lee Tasjan; you’ll be sorry if you don’t.