Of course the title of Nashville's Jason Lee McKinney Band latest release caught my attention and peaked my curiosity, a little research found that their fans call themselves “The Barstool Fellowship” now being one who’s always looking for an empty barstool I plopped myself down and stuck this album in my ears.
With John Thomson Lead guitar, Banjo, vocals | Barry Strauser keys, guitar, vocals | Billy Wright Bass, vocals | Kyle Dietz Drums the album is an extravaganza of gritty, bluesy, swampy Country tinged songs.
While we all have some part of us that are gypsy, vagabond spirits, Jason Lee McKinney is the troubadour we all find that barstool to sit on for that sense of belonging.
"All my friends are Troubadours, Vagabonds, and Thieves just like me"With foot stomping songs like ‘Two Steps’ and ‘Rattle The Cage’ and the bluesy ‘Don't Deny the Proof’ to the twangy ‘Strangest Places’ and ‘Long Long Gone’ the album has 13 stand out tracks.
Rating: Four Pabst Blue Ribbons
1) That'll Preach
2) Two Steps
3) The Hardest Part
4) Long, Long Gone
5) Strangest Places
6) Old Man Johnson
7) Mary Goes Round
8) Rattle The Cage
9) Whole Lotta Texas
10) Don't Deny The Proof
12) Dance With Me (featuring Zakyra McKinney)
13) Passenger Side
04/27/2013 3:30pm Franklin Main Street Festival Franklin, TN
06/15/2013 8:00pm Lamasco Bar & Grill Evansville, IN
06/21/2013 7:00pm Carpe Cafe (acoustic) Smyrna, TN
06/29/2013 8:00pm Private Party Evansville, IN
07/19/2013 7:00pm Carpe Cafe (acoustic) Smyrna, TN
09/28/2013 6:00pm Depot Days Smyrna, TN
Jason Lee McKinney has been the “next big thing” since he started writing and recording music, but life has always intervened: now, McKinney is writing about that life, and it is more real and powerful than ever. He is the type of musician who is becoming the face of the new music business: a vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. He has been signed to two major record deals with two different bands—SpinAround and Lost Anthem—and worked with music legends such as Tommy Sims (Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, and Eric Clapton). He has played over 1,500 shows, released five full-length albums and two EPs, and had four moderate hits on three different charts. In fact, it is hard to imagine that with as much as he has worked and recorded, McKinney is not a household name yet. However, in 2006 while Lost Anthem was recording a new album, McKinney suffered two of life's biggest losses on the heels of each other: first, his father died of cancer; and then, his high school sweetheart and wife of fourteen years filed for divorce. It seemed like the music left him, too.
For the first time since the age of ten McKinney was not involved with music— he did not sing, he didn’t play, he didn’t write, he didn’t even listen. About a year after the divorce, however, he was going through his father's records when he stumbled upon a stack of old Bob Seger albums. “I was reminded that I knew every word to every song,” he says. “Bob wrote about the human condition, common experiences everyone faces and appeals to people from all walks of life for the long haul.” He wrote off this epiphany moment as a fluke, but he kept listening to the music of his childhood— Seger, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings— opening the door wide enough for music to come back to him. If vinyl was the gateway drug, going back to the radio was the hard stuff. For the first time in two years, McKinney began listening to contemporary music, and discovered that while he was settling things in his own life, contemporary country radio had become something for which he had an ear. Though he had heard and appreciated artists like Keith Urban and Pat Green before, he had not yet realized the impact it would have on his own writing. Soon after, a friend of his, Scott Faircloth (songwriter and producer for Lifehouse), convinced him to sit down and write. “Scott asked me if I had written about the divorce and I told him, 'I haven't written about anything.’ Scott challenged me to just write whatever would come out and not think about selling records or radio, or demographics, just frigging write from the heart, from the pain, from the soul. So I just simply poured out my heart with him at the piano and me frantically writing and singing. Literally five minutes later the song was done and we were both in tears,” McKinney recalls.
That experience still wasn't enough for him to fully commit to music again, but after several music industry people heard the song and had the same stunned tears reaction— he decided to stop fighting who he was and dive back in. “I just came to the realization that it is in me, for better or worse like a marriage, music— performing and being creative is just who I am.” It was then that McKinney began to methodically, cathartically, and honestly tell his story in song. Though he had been writing for years and had a reputation as an articulate and clever lyricist as well as being a master of the hook melody, his writing had always been missing his story, his heart, and now it was there. For the first time, McKinney was bleeding on the page. By facing his losses and demons on the page, McKinney is able to write relatable music. His passion and energy is a perfect foil for his down-to-earth songs: it is hard to imagine anyone listening to June 7th,” about his divorce, without getting a lump in their throat. The song starts, “It was the 7th of the sixth month when my world stopped spinning/ When you said that you don’t love me anymore/ We swore that we would hold on, so I didn’t see it coming/ And I guess I really still don’t understand,” and his hurt is palpable. By being so specific with his lyrics, McKinney opens his heart up to the audience while still writing a song everyone who has ever loved and lost can identify with. Likewise, more laid-back songs like “Middle of Nowhere” are about growing up in the Midwest, and would fit in on any contemporary radio station—“Born on the Westside of a Midwest town/ Indiana boy without a doubt/ Raised on the banks of the Ohio/ skippin' rocks to see how far they’d go” evokes more than just his own memories, these are the shared childhoods of Midwesterners. He also talks about touring and the blessing and curse that music can be in “Strangers, Stages, and Cheap Hotels,” with lyrics “ I fell for the one mistress who don’t share/ she gives me strangers, stages and cheap hotels” and writes about new beginnings on songs like “Better the Second Time,” with lyrics like, “Every now and then you get a second chance/ Someone comes along that makes you want to live again,” which make it obvious that McKinney is taking the pain of the path of all he’s learned in his life and moving forward. He is ready to leave his permanent mark on the music industry.