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On his last two albums, Jason Eady earned major acclaim for his ahead-of-the- curve take on classic country, a bold departure from his earlier excursions into blues-infused Americana. Now with his sixth album, the Mississippi-bred singer/guitarist merges his distinct sensibilities into a stripped-down, roots- oriented sound that starkly showcases the gritty elegance of his songwriting.
The follow-up to 2014’s critically praised Daylight/Dark—an album that “belongs on a shelf next to Dwight Yoakam’s Buenos Noches from a Lonely Room, Joe Ely’s Letter to Laredo, and yes, even Willie Nelson’s Phases and Stages,” according to AllMusic—Eady’s latest finds the Fort Worth, Texas-based artist again teaming up with producer Kevin Welch. Now longtime collaborators (with their past efforts including 2012’s AM Country Heaven, a top 40 debut on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart), Eady and Welch worked closely in crafting the album’s acoustic-driven yet lushly textured aesthetic. “At the beginning I told everyone I wanted to make a record where, if the power went out, we could still sit down and play all the songs the exact same way,” says Eady, who points out that steel guitar is the only electric instrument featured on the album.
Despite its subtle approach, the album radiates a warm vitality that’s got much to do with Eady’s gift for nuanced yet unaffected slice-of-life storytelling. “I’ve always been drawn to writing that’s got a simplicity to it, where you’re digging deep into real day-to-day life,” he notes. Here, that means touching on such matters as turning 40 (on the reflective, soul-stirring “40 Years”), his daughter’s growing up and going off to college (on the sweetly heartbreaking “Not Too Loud”), and the everyday struggle to “embrace the messy parts of life instead of trying to get the point where you’ve somehow fixed all your problems” (on “Rain,” a joyfully determined anthem featuring SteelDrivers fiddler Tammy Rogers). Throughout the album, Eady’s soulfully rugged voice blends in beautiful harmonies with his wife, singer/songwriter Courtney Patton. And on “No Genie in This Bottle,” the legendary Vince Gill lends his singular vocals to what Eady refers to as a “good old country drinking song.”
In each track, Eady reveals a sharp sense of songcraft he’s honed since childhood. “Even back in my early days of getting into music, I always cared more about the writers than the singers,” says Eady, who grew up in Jackson. “I’d look up who’d written a certain song, and then go seek out more songs from that writer.” At age 14—the same year he started writing his own material—Eady began performing in local bars and showing his natural grasp of everything from soul and R&B to blues and country. After some time in the Air Force, he moved to Fort Worth and started playing open mic nights, where he quickly built up a devoted following. By 2005, Eady had made his debut with the independently released From Underneath The Old.
For Eady—who names Merle Haggard, Guy Clark, and Willie Nelson among his main inspirations—instilling each song with so much graceful honesty proved to be his greatest achievement and thrill in creating the new album. “When you first get started making music, your ideas are grandiose and more about the big picture. But the longer I’ve done this, the more I’ve realized that the real joy comes from the process rather than the end goal,” he says. “Now it’s about getting better and finding more of myself with every album. So instead of writing what I think people want to hear, I’m writing what I want to write and trusting that—as long as it’s coming from an honest place—it’ll hopefully mean something to the people listening too.”
Courtney Patton is a storyteller.
She’s also a mother, a wife, a producer, a singer, a songwriter, a tour-van driver and a musician- as well as a world-traveler when she’s out on tour throughout the continental U.S., Canada and Europe. But to anyone lucky enough to be sitting in the audience while listening to her expansive Texas twang belt out her version of deep and soulful country music, she’s a storyteller. In a musical era in which clichés and bravado are mistaken for bold noteworthiness, there is something far more brave in peeling back highly personal and emotional open-book songs and delivering them with sensitivity and sentiment. Patton does just that. She is the consummate storyteller in her music. Heartache isn’t just described, it is tangibly felt.
Following her previous solo albums, Triggering a Flood (2013) and So This Is Life (2015), and her acoustic collaborative project with her husband and fellow Texas troubadour Jason Eady, Something Together, (2017), Patton has drawn on true life day-to-day autobiographical life experiences and released her third album, What It’s Like To Fly Alone, earlier this year
Patton explains the genesis behind the project, “The album is titled after one of its songs, “What It’s Like to Fly Alone”. The title sounds melancholy, but the resolve isn’t. This record is full of songs about people who have had to “fly alone” in some way, whether through grief, loss, life choices, addiction or love. We have to work through our struggles, choose our own destiny, just like the characters in each song. We have to make ourselves happy. No one else can do that for us. I’ve been down in all of those ways, but I chose happiness. In the end, “flying alone” is soaring because you pick your path and you find your way.”
She’s shared the stage with leading lights of the country-folk scene including Walt Wilkins, Bruce Robison, Jamie Lin Wilson, Cody Jinks, Sunny Sweeney, Brennen Leigh and Drew Kennedy. Musicians on her latest project include musical talents such as Chip Bricker, piano player with Gene Watson's highly acclaimed Farewell Party Band, Austin City Limits Hall Of Fame member Lloyd Maines on pedal steel, Heather Stalling (wife of Texas troubadour Max Stalling) on fiddle, and Jamie Lin Wilson (The Trishas) and Dan Tyminski (Alison Krauss & Union Station) on background vocals.
What might be most remarkable, however, is that Patton is doing this all independently. After having Kennedy produce her last album, Patton took the production reins this time around, further cementing this as her most personal work to date. There is no marketing team or music label support. It’s Patton and her spirited passion for the music that has her hands-on over every part of her career.
That makes the fact that What It’s Like To Fly Alone debuted as high at #4 on the i-Tunes country chart and made a mark across four different Billboard album charts (including a Top 20 mark on their Americana Albums Sales chart) all the more remarkable.
But then again, Patton is a storyteller. It only makes sense.
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