Chords Of Truth – Shadows Sessions – Album Review
Fun fact – Chords Of Truth was actually the second band I ever reviewed here on these pages of ours, way back in 2013 when sleepingbagstudios expanded beyond the physical studio into the online world, long before I packed up the studio, physically, and which now exists primarily, if not completely, online.
Here’s another fun fact for ya, that’ll let you in on a glimpse on what it’s like to live inside my head over here…that first review on the double-album Reflections Of Reality might have been literally over eight years ago now – but I can still spell Jason Garriotte by memory and fully remember the guy behind the music, every time I see the Chords Of Truth name pop up into our world again. Like, if someone was to ask me what Chords Of Truth was all about while passing on the street or something like that, I’d instantly be able to recall it all, and I’d probably say, “Oh – Chords Of Truth? That’s that Jason Garriotte acoustic-based project – folk songs written with a lot of thought & emotion – he’s one of the good guys out there in our music-scene.”
I know I always try to write some kind of an intro to help tie the details altogether in some way, shape, or form for ya – but that history between us all and Chords Of Truth plays a significant role this time around. I can’t completely vouch for Shadows Sessions being the equivalent of what Chords Of Truth would put out there as a greatest hits record – I don’t think that was the intention here – but just like the name of Jason Garriotte, this ol’ brain of my tends to hold a few songs in it as well – and there’s no doubt that as I listened, I could recall several of the tunes I know from this guy showing up again in this shiny new acoustic lineup here. While I’d never profess to know the man’s catalog inside & out…from what I can see here…I believe Shadows Sessions would be something like a 40% new set of songs, with 60% coming back to strengthen the lineup, and perhaps a few more cracks at the bat to give a couple the second chance they deserved. I’m not entirely sure about the math here…he could be pulling from parts of his live set or unpublished catalog…or maybe I just don’t know them all – I personally I don’t recognize the first four tracks by name or by sound, but the latter six I remember from my previous experiences with Chords Of Truth throughout the years. I mean…some of these tunes directly trace back to that very review on his Reflections Of Reality record from back in 2013 – for you musicians out there, try to convince me you haven’t thought about doing this yourselves…chances are, time + experience = even better results, right? Let’s be real here…we all get excited…we all get hasty…and in the process of recording almost any record, there are points that get rushed, or things we look back on later that we know we could do better now…sometimes, it’s simply a matter of hearing how material can be more relevant down the road than when it was written, or the plain desire of wanting to play one of your own favorite tunes. There can be plenty of reasons for wanting to bring back your music – and you SHOULD – there’s only an invisible rule out there that says a song gets to appear on one record and maybe a live one too it it’s lucky – that’s never been an actual thing written down, nor has anyone out there been forced to comply with such an imaginary limitation…we naturally just seem to. So I’m all about it Jason…whatever the reason may be – I think it’s actually really damn wise to keep the material refreshed and on our playlists, and it also reveals how prescient Garriotte has truly been over his career. With his socially-conscious & environmentally-aware style of writing – you bet – a ton of these tracks are almost sadly more relevant today than they were even back when they were originally written – and full proof that as a species, we’ve had people like Jason warning us about what’s to come of our inaction if it weren’t to change. Unsurprising to him I’m sure – we’re all in the real thick of the consequences now.
So! He’ll start it out by taking us into the “Valley Of Shadows” at the very beginning, and give you a solid glimpse into what this experience of the Shadows Sessions will be like to listen to. Crisp & clean acoustic guitar, the bold vocals of Garriotte leading the way, and lyricism that shows a depth of insightful wisdom and genuine thought put into his words. I had my moments here & there with the melodic design of the verses on “Valley Of Shadows” – it’s pretty straightforward, but music in general, is a support system and vehicle for Jason to get his words out there into the world when it comes right down to it. Where the difference gets made on this first song for me, is that transition into the chorus of “Valley Of Shadows” – because that’s just gorgeous stuff right there is what that is. As the melody of the acoustic guitar dips sweetly into lower tones, Jason gets every ounce of the hope & uplifting spirit he’s looking to provide through the chorus of this cut, and as a result of his focused efforts and stellar vocals & music combined, this first track goes from pretty good to pretty great in no time at all, and remains a highlight.
Listen to this dude’s voice will ya? Jason’s always had a great one – but there’s no doubt that what you hear now is coming from a seasoned veteran of the music-scene, more robust & bold than ever, even in the delicate acoustic settings he creates. Tracks like “Darkness And Light” instantly present that serious vibe that tells your ears that you’re in for a more grounded experience…but I suppose that shouldn’t surprise anyone out there familiar with Chords Of Truth – Jason’s about as down-to-earth as they come. Reflecting internally throughout the words of “Darkness And Light,” Jason’s mired in the murk here, trying to find that guiding brightness that’ll lead towards better tomorrows – and it’s clear that it’s no easy task…certainly not right now. The battle between “Darkness And Light” hasn’t been as prevalent in the soul of the people as it is right now in years & years…with many struggling to maintain hope & the very fabric of their mind & who they are, daily. It definitely shifts the direction of the vibe on Shadows Sessions in a more melancholy direction up front as far as the demeanor of its sound is concerned, which while that might be somewhat of a risk in terms of drawing people in to listen depending on what they’re listening for – at the same time, tracks like “Darkness And Light” really make a declarative statement on what this record is all about and why Chords Of Truth have created this lineup of songs.
He’s gotten a really great recording on these tracks that really allow his vocals and music to come alive. “Authenticity” is a perfect example of that…I’d put this song up there with some of the best I’ve heard by Chords Of Truth overall…it’s got that like…eeriness like a song like “House Of The Rising Sun” always carried with it…haunting stuff that clings to your bones, and rightly so. Ever in the pursuit of what’s real and what’s true – “Authenticity” examines the credibility of information, and in ourselves as a result – and I’m loving it. A track that genuinely expresses so much of what so many of us are going through right now in our own quests for truth and accurate information we can rely on – Chords Of Truth digs into the perils of how misinformation has affected us, both through his words, and through the overall weary spirit presented in the music itself. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “Authenticity” is draining to listen to – it’s freakin’ apt, and it carries real WEIGHT behind the words – it’s only natural that a song like that is going to tax the mind & perhaps the soul a bit more than a pepped up Pop song without any substance, you feel me? No complaints from me here – I think Jason got a mesmerizing, gripping and genuinely captivating performance outta himself on “Authenticity” – and I really can’t imagine anyone out there not gravitating towards this cut from the Shadows Sessions if they’re fans of Chords Of Truth. A continual standout for all the right reasons, Garriotte’s songwriting is spectacular here from every angle you examine it from, and his performance rises to the song’s full potential – Chords Of Truth is at its own authentic best on “Authenticity” – feel free to fact-check me on that and go get your Snopes on.
“Truth And Lies” will dig further into the concepts he’s explored through “Authenticity,” while brightening up the vibe of the music and expanding the accessibility in the process. I really dig the guitar he’s got goin’ on in this particular track…suits him really well. “Truth And Lies” would be more of an example of his ability to thrive in contrast…his words might be serious & grounded, but the sound surrounding him is uplifting, spirited, and hopeful. Spelling out what should – I repeat SHOULD – be common sense shared between us all about how “Truth And Lies” cannot coexist – I hate to say it, but I’m thankful Jason’s here to lay it out as plain as day for those in the back that still aren’t getting it. Better yet, he really helps define so much of what’s important when it comes to filtering the information we do receive – hold this right here to be true: “it’s the intent that determines whether honesty is concerned” – that’s about everything you need to know, right there, in a lyrical nutshell. I’ve said it for years & years myself…above all things, measure intentions. We all know that person that gets offended the moment they hear something they think is directed at them, even when it comes from a best friend – and if we just took a moment to measure the intentions of that scenario, you start to realize it’d just be downright weird to think your best friend or family would just up & attack ya for no reason outta the blue, right? Measuring intentions is critical on every level – but it’s absolutely crucial when it comes to the information being put out by the media and circulated around the internet…where’s it coming from, who’s uncle thinks they’re a verified scientist this week, and is that meme really funny, or sheer viral propaganda? The thing is folks – you were all born gifted with the ability to reason, and learn – it’s just that most of us have let these muscles atrophy too much over time, and we see that now in the masses in a snapshot view of what society is like right now. We might be surrounded by “Truth And Lies” every day – actually…no…we ARE surrounded by them every day – but Jason’s absolutely correct in that they “cannot coexist” – the singular, solitary reason that they seem to right now, is only because we LET it happen. “Truth And Lies” is a call-to-mental-arms & action, to combat the BS with everything we’ve got – facts, evidence, wisdom, light, love, knowledge, empathy, understanding…and 100% universal truths.
“Pattern” was where I had instantly cued into the fact that songs were returning to the lineup of Jason’s new album – there’s no forgetting this song, and he’s put a truly spellbinding spin on it for ya here on the Shadows Sessions. I never usually go back and re-read my previous reviews until I’m finished writing a new one – or anyone else’s for that matter – but if I said anything less than this song being pure genius, I’d be surprised – “Pattern” is simply incredible songwriting and fascinating melody combined, full-stop. I’m willing to take a blind guess & say I stand behind everything I would have said about “Pattern” in my previous review, which you can find by clicking here – but suffice it to say, here in this pure acoustic variation…honestly, I’m not sure I’ve heard Jason ever sound better if I’m being real with ya. There’s just not a single ounce of “Pattern” that doesn’t suit him perfectly for the qualities of his vocals & the rich tone he carries…the sparkle of the acoustic is a stellar complement and equally as dazzling as his voice can be at times. There are folk songs out there in this world where some sweet strummin’ will get ya by and earn you a nice following for sure – and then there are more intricate & deep cuts like this one right here by Chords Of Truth that are pivotal moments in building a real legacy of meaningful music that people will remember. Because that’s the real deal of this whole scenario folks – I had no idea originally that this was going to be a record that had some new songs & some old songs combined – but the moment I heard “Pattern,” I knew I had to look at the entire lineup all over again, because this is such an extremely recognizable song, which is when I then realized it was a mixed record of the past & present tunes of Chords Of Truth. But to make the real point crystal clear for y’all – that’s exactly what you WANT in a great single – “Pattern” is as memorable as music can be when it comes right down to it, it’s an experience that the DNA of your bones & brainwaves will remember, even years after, I promise ya that. Downright timeless in many ways if you ask me – “Pattern” is a flawless song.
Diving further back into his catalog, four of the final five tracks come from the Reflections Of Reality album from 2013, starting with “Moments.” I’ve got no issues here with bringing this track back, and it fits well within the context & sound of Shadows Sessions…but to be fair, Jason’s really got his thing when it comes to the music he makes, and arguably, I’d imagine he could make any of his past material relevant for today or fit into a new album fairly comfortably. For me, as much as I like what he’s got here and the words & vocals & all that…I think it’s actually that instrumental break in between his lyrics that could potentially be the biggest hook in the song itself. I’ll be real with ya – coming after “Pattern” would prove to be an extremely tough challenge for any of the songs in this lineup, no matter what it was that Jason chose…”Moments” pretty much does as well as can be done. As Garriotte examines the fabric of our existence and questions whether or not we’re placed here by God or by aliens and what the heck it is we’re all really doing here – you’ll always find incredible value in the words he’s written and his point of view…he writes thought-provoking words, delivers them with real emotion and heart, and that consistently shines through the material he creates. Not the most crucial cut in the set, but a good one.
I’d readily concede there’s a moment & a mood you wanna be in to listen to Chords Of Truth…I’m not gonna be the guy that tells ya to throw on Shadows Sessions in the middle of your Friday night party to take it up to the next level as you jump into the pool from the rooftop like the golden gods you are – but that’s not the purpose of a record like this or the music that Jason makes. Admittedly, that does end up putting him in somewhat of a box when it comes to the distance that music can travel and narrows the potential audience a bit…but for those out there that are specifically seeking out more meaningful messages in the songs they listen to, they’ll easily become loyal fans of what Chords Of Truth creates. “The Power To Be Alive” features Jason’s insightful & relatable wisdom in a way that people will hear it, especially in the main hooks of the chorus when the spark of inspiration takes hold of Garriotte to provide that uplifting vibe it needed in that moment. He sings it earnestly and sincerely, humbly and honestly…the aspects of Chords Of Truth that Jason’s built his music around, year after year. As you listen to the chorus of “The Power To Be Alive,” you can’t help but notice the relevance it has, right now.
So. “Listen” – cause we’ve both got something to say here. First & foremost, generally-speaking, I always appreciate the fact that Jason very much says what he’s looking to say as directly as possible – I think that brings out a ton of authenticity in this guy as an artist, time after time. That being said, I am not gonna be the guy to tell ya that doesn’t make it awkward sometimes – it does, that’s the reality. He doesn’t make it easy on himself in that regard…his word selection alone shows how much thought he puts into…well…his thoughts – but my man…sometimes you gotta add a couple syllables here & there or take one or two away for the sake of fluidity and that smooth flow we’re seeking out as listeners. I have absolutely no problem with hearing a lineup of songs that I know from the past – but at the same time, you’re kind of always pulling for that evolution to occur in that next time you hear something, while still retaining the sound you loved to begin with. “Listen” still has a lot of that magic in that regard – it’s still a quality tune with real highlight moments within it, but there are multiple points along the way where I’m craving the seamlessly smooth way Jason can work a melody too, which he proves to be more than capable of on just about every other cut surrounding this one here. Very much on-point thematically and as equally relevant as the other tracks he’s brought back from his past that prove we’re still struggling with many of the same issues right now in the present…all that checks out solidly, but yeah…I suppose there’s a bit more of a square-wheel rolling along through the melody feel to it than the usual smooth ride we know he’s capable of creating when it comes to the rhythm, melody, & flow of “Listen.” Best advice I can give the man, is that if he really wants the people out there to “Listen” as they should, seamless fluidity and accessibility are going to be the particular assets that would suit the purpose most; each subsequent recording is always another opportunity to take the story of a song even further, and part of that can certainly be tweaking the design a bit back & forth to round out the corners over time.
“Freedom Is…” is an update on the 2016 single, originally just titled “Freedom” – and another wise choice to have included in this lineup to keep the people out there engaged for sure…Chords Of Truth has one of the most catchy & accessible cuts of the catalog in this song right here. I’m again, not sure what I would have written about this track originally when it was released – you can find that by clicking here though – but I’m gonna say that I likely underestimated this particular track…at least somewhat. I can’t imagine I had anything less than good things to say about it – but in terms of just how welcome it would become after not hearing it for a significant amount of time, exceeded every expectation I could have had. “Freedom Is…” is a beautifully observant & objective song that is as expressive & colorful & bright as it should be with the theme it has – another real masterpiece in the catalog of Chords Of Truth, and certainly in this inspired, sunny-side up acoustic version he’s got here. Full of rhythm & groove, full of vibrant passion & purpose…I’d imagine “Freedom Is…” will have no problem making an impression on the people out there listening, it’s essentially got all the good-time vibes you wanna hear, an upbeat spirit & hopeful atmosphere…listeners love radiant and sincere energy, just like they’ll find right here.
I really thought “What Life Is About” worked well as an ending to this particular record and enjoyed the pensive way this whole song plays out so contemplatively in real-time. A perfect example of how music that Chords Of Truth was making way back when, predicted so much of what we’d be going through still to this very day – I mean, what else can be said? Jason’s always had an incredible understanding of “What Life Is About” – to the point where I’d imagine he was born with it. Sure it gets more informed and refined as time goes on like it does for all of us I’m sure – but there’s an inherent insightfulness to the way he writes & sings that makes it feel like he’s always had the inside track on what’s important, what’s real & where the truth really lies within this reality we share – and that he’s had it from day one. There are a few moments of that awkwardness that crept into “Listen” on a lyrical level metering-wise, but I love his guitar work on this track & the gentle melody that guides it…I love the positivity he beams throughout the lyricism on “What Life Is About,” and the reminder it serves to live our dreams out loud. It’s a final dose of light & love that examines forgiveness, acceptance, and change for the better – “What Life Is About” – or at the very least, what I certainly hope it’s about, not just for Jason, but for all of us.
Make sure to find out more about Chords Of Truth by visiting the official website at: https://www.chordsoftruth.com
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