Life is not always straightforward, it does not always proceed how we would wish and certainly, this was the case for Jason Hawk Harris. Over the time he wrote this album, his debut solo long-player, his mother passed away from complications of alcoholism, his father was declared bankrupt after being sued by the King of Morocco and his sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, giving birth, prematurely to her son, who sadly suffers from cerebral palsy.
Now all this may seem enough for any musician to operate as a songwriter for 3 lifetimes, although coming from a family where M.S. is inherent (no I didn’t say hereditary, although genetic tendencies have been found; well that’s what I have been told anyway), I can identify a little with where Jason is coming from and not just The Show Ponies, his earlier band.
Well this wasn’t enough and it would seem that whilst working here, Jason got a little sidetracked by his own vices, so Love and Dark is a personal narrative on these struggles, all set within the family values with which he was raised.
Launching the album with – ‘The Smoke and the Stars‘, which somewhat fittingly enters with a suppressed rush, before Jason begins his dialogue, it becomes evident that he has found life hard in general, not just because of those events I have already described. A life brought to the listener, in lyrics told with such emotion you’ll be excused for showing yours. Moving into the album, musically a bluegrass tone is lent, when he describes how he used alcohol, not just this but in themes we will all be familiar with, detailing his struggle with love in the lines “…there’s no need to rush the old “I do”‘ and “why can’t I be in love and be confused?“, in the song ‘Confused‘ (funnily enough), this all sung within the dizzying heights and pace of a hoe down.
‘Giving In‘ is another journey into the world of this musician, where he describes the concern shown by his liquor-store owner, continuing to the cold turkey he’s been through, trying to get off this road. Produced exceptionally well, I found it glorious to listen to this with a pair of headphones and witness the layering achieved. But it’s Jason’s storytelling that surpasses all, be it relationships, death, or his alcohol abuse.
As the listener draws closer to the end of this album, Jason starts to explore realms further than his own and in ‘Grandfather‘, I think he’s looking at his passing, meeting Saint Peter at the gates of Heaven. Finding his own passed family members, “oh tell me Grandfather, is mother here too?“, and latterly refers to the tragic events that transpired at the Bataclan in France, when the Eagles of Death Metal, were the sad witness to the slaying of 90 of their fans on the evening their performance. This was a spine chilling song, that must’ve been as hard to write as it is to listen to.
But all this considered, I want to end on a lighter note, and an observation I made when first introduced to this artist. Rather than the image of the gnarly, long-haired hobo that these songs first conjured up, instead from the press-photo offered of Jason “Hawk” Harris, the one that greeted me each time I opened the email was images of an older Leonardo DiCaprio, not quite Titanic, but more The Departed, or The Wolf Of Wall Street. Made me chuckle anyway – no disrespect Jason. As an album, Love & The Dark is a very enjoyable and immersive listen.
Love & The Dark is released on 23rd August through Bloodshot Records.