Jamestown Revival: Utah
Jamestown Revival’s debut album, Utah, is a patchwork quilt of many different musical influences that come together to form a refreshing new sound that will please the ears of rock ‘n’ roll fans.
The band consists of two childhood friends from Magnolia, Texas, Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance. When I first listened to the record, I was reminded of Fine Tuning Favorite, Shovels & Rope, since, like Shovels & Rope, the band is a twosome, beautiful harmonies run riot over every track, and the songs are acoustically driven. And perhaps that's a fitting comparison. But I’m not sure. Jamestown Revival’s sound is all its own.
“Wandering Man” (acoustic version above, full-blown studio version here) is a good example of the record’s octopus-like reach across genres. It starts with acoustic slide work that has the feel of New Age spa music. But don’t let that put you off — I definitely don't recommend this album during a massage. The tune quickly morphs into a blend of bluegrass and folk. But when the bass drum kicks in and the lyrics reveal the tale of a bill collector hounding his quarry, the blues begin to take over with a touch of ragtime seeping in as well.
All of the above elements, and others, find a home in one track or another, making it difficult to categorize this record. While the music is acoustically driven, there's a liberal dose of electric guitar, including electric slide on “Revival.” “Fur Coat Blues” is a blues-folk-bluegrass-rocker (if there's such a thing) that sounds like it emanates from an open boxcar rolling across the country at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The lyrics add to the folksy, downtrodden vibe of the tune: “Lately I’m scared of being alive/ I’ve got my own dog barking when I walk inside.” That's surely a bad sign.
There are some arena rock notes as well on Utah, particularly the soaring guitar solo on “Golden Age” and the chorus of “Home” with its Oasis-like production values. And “Headhunters” has a dirty, Bayou feel to it. But my favorite track on the record is the acoustic ballad, “Time is Gone” (below). Perhaps it's because my birthday is fast approaching, but that tune, about the unremitting passage of time, has been swimming around in my head for weeks now. It's a gorgeous song.
Every song on Utah seems to offer up a slightly different sound. Yet it's a strikingly coherent album with musical feints in one track coming to the fore in others. The parts all fit together, revealing a worthy new band with a unique sound rooted in the defining influences of rock ‘n’ roll.