The timeless Jamestown Revival at Belly Up Aspen
Special to The Aspen Times
If You Go …
What: Jamestown Revival with Nikki Lane and Hollow Wood
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Friday, Nov. 21, 9:15 p.m
Goose bump inducing, soul-affirming vocal harmony is rare in music these days. Technology seems to have removed the initiative, allowing artists to harmonize with themselves through looping and octave-shifting rather than organically seeking the vocal blends that defined great rock and country music in the disappearing past.
Likewise, some modern bands might get lucky and pen a song that harkens back to a bygone era, when lyrics and poetry carried weight that altered history. Many try, but the nasty bugs of derivation and stereotypical contrivery collapse their good intentions.
Some bands might even know how to rock, per se. They may master dynamics and tempo, and be able to wordlessly carry an enthusiastic crowd through the starts and stops they’ve built around their hooks and jams.
Very few bands offer any one of these three key elements of a great country rock band: Only the true greats can deliver tender harmony in the midst of songs teaming with timeless, soul-piercing lyrics and the ability to shift the musical gears that can instantly turn any four walls into a sweaty honky-tonk.
Take all of that, add in the unique qualities of a shared love of the outdoors, an adventurer’s spirit, and an authentic humility, and you get Jamestown Revival.
Growing up in a rumblestrip town in South Texas, Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance often sought the wide-open spaces of a spacious family ranch to camp and explore. They were both 15 years old when they decided to bring a guitar and keyboard along to pass the time, a fateful decision that, not all that later, launched two successful solo music careers, and ultimately the best new country rock band to emerge in quite a long time.
Clay had seen some success with placing songs in TV shows, but felt like his music was lacking something. Little did he know it was right there beside him.
“It was a different kind of music career,” Clay, the band’s lead singer and rhythm guitarist, said while rolling along the frozen tundra of Wisconsin. “I was doing more singer-songwriter stuff, really just trying to find my own identity in music, and Zach was doing the same thing. We were touring and traveling together and playing two different sets. We started singing harmonies on each other’s sets and that seemed to be what people really reacted to. I think that was something that encouraged us to take the dive and try to form some kind of collective group between us, and put harmonies at the forefront of that.”
Jamestown Revival officially formed in 2011, first as a duo and soon after as a five-piece rock outfit. Surveying a scene littered with acts more interested in style than substance, they made a conscious effort to start writing honest songs about the things going on in their lives.
“It was sort of a revelation to be writing things that we believed in, to create songs that were honest and very autobiographical,” the rangy, mustachioed Chance said. “Instead of writing songs that we thought people wanted to hear, we wrote songs that we wanted to hear, and tried to craft them as best we could, judging ourselves based on the works of musicians that we were listening to at the time.”
A remote cabin in the Sawatch Mountains in Utah presented the perfect retreat to try and capture the harmonic magic that they were creating on stage. The result is the stunningly beautiful record that they simply called “Utah.”
One listen to the road song “California (Cast Iron Soul)” reveals a songwriting prowess and maturity that can only come from real, focused talent — and it courses throughout the record. The lush harmonies that resulted on the record weren’t necessarily written, but emerged organically in the process of making the record.
“Sometimes a good harmony part is just what is needed at that moment,” Clay said. “It just feels right. It’s not so much a conscious thing as it is an inevitable thing, because we aren’t going to be satisfied until we find the thing that feels good. … There is a feeling that you get when you are doing something right, and we are just chasing that feeling. I think we know it when it feels good. If we don’t feel it, we just keep circling the airport until we find it.”
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