It’s no secret that Jason Maynard is a well-traveled artist, or “musical journeyman”, as the industry might call him. A lifelong musician who’s explored multiple career changes—even a stint pursuing dreams of becoming Maverick in the Air Force—and several different musical endeavours along the line, Jason finally gets the chance to show his true colours on the self-titled debut LP, Jason Maynard. The result is a stunning mosaic of 14 country-tinted acoustic rock songs that unearth the beauty hidden in sadness, heartbreak, nostalgia, and so many other emotions, all through Maynard’s descriptive storytelling.
Title track “Begin Again” is loaded with a sense of burden – optimism shrouded in fog as Jason begins again on yet another new endeavour after past projects The Martins and Griffin failed to materialise into anything substantial. However, the palpable weight of starting anew as felt in “Begin Again” is as beautiful as any sense of duty has ever sounded. Crisp acoustic riffs and strumming paired with Jason’s smooth tenor get listeners started on the right foot and lead the way into the chorus that ends with the gutting line “I’d do anything to undo everything.” Mr. Maynard, please do not undo this album.
The mood begins to thaw a little with track two, “Bad Times Ahead”. Acoustic strumming and a gentle snare chug this song along while Jason once more lets listeners peer into his psyche, offering insight such as “throw your rope to rescue me / from these broken dreams.” But unlike “Begin Again” that offered little in the way of lyrical positivity, Jason this time acknowledges that someone is “there to see me through when they won’t dare.” Following “Bad Times” is “Spider”, a track that flits back and forth between major and minor and that sees Jason telling of the increasing strangeness in our everyday.
The album’s first true ballad and song about someone else appears in track four, “Those Were The Days”, a nostalgic tearjerker ostensibly about the loss of a friend and a reminiscent look back at simpler times. Instrumental bridges are a theme on this album, and this song contains what is perhaps the most striking example on the record.
The middle stretch of the record is filled with a combination of songs that serve as microcosm of the album as a whole: Another relationship is put on display with “Driving”, an upbeat moderate rocker that on the surface appears to be about a woman he’s looking forward to seeing again but that in reality is much deeper than that; “Once Again” serves as Jason’s outlet for self-torment; and “All You Leave Behind” features the same guitar / vocal mirror effect as heard on “Bad Times Ahead” and offers resentful lyrics such as “now it’s colder than the ice fallin’ on your face / rearrange the world just to suit your tastes / takin’ every chance just to re-erase all you leave behind.” This track in particular is formulaic in the best way possible, with haunting minor verses and feel good ‘take me home’ choruses. Next, “This is Real” plays the role of the essential triumphant breakup anthem, “On & On” gets attention for being the slow acoustic serenade, drenched in guitar interplay and with a strong ¾ groove, and finally, “Breathe” picks things up a bit with tight rim shots and a momentous chord progression that reminds us all how important it is to stop and breathe every once in a while.
Things take a turn for the poignant with “Treading Water”, an unfettered glimpse into the draining effect of depression. Jason encourages those who know what he’s talking about to “hold on”. Brush percussion, soft guitar arpeggiation, a heavy electric reverb and excellent piano mimicry intersect with Jason’s poetic lyrics to create a piece that would help anyone through a spate of dejected isolation. “Tender Trap” is without a doubt one of the most unique songs on the album, starting from an intro loaded with potential despite its stark instrumentation and welcome acoustic dissonance, a musical property not often found on this album. As the song gains momentum, anthemic electric notes hang in background of each verse as big, sweeping electric strums take their place during the chorus. This give and take grows only more epic as song goes on and is beautifully accentuated by a simple piano melody that tinkers throughout. It evolved into the perfect soundscape to compliment the lyrics that repeat to close out the track: “this dream will last forever”.
The Maynard LP rounds out with a brief, slogging instrumental interlude that represents Jason’s internalised gloom and doom at its bleakest, followed by the upbeat and thought provoking “Strangest Dream” that ends with a perplexing twist.
This record is honest songwriting at its finest, capable of pulling the discouraged through by giving them something to relate to, doing so with beautiful melodies, harmonies, and instrumental layering. Other reviewers have put it in the same neighbourhood as Moody Blues and Neil Finn. If there’s any justice in the world of music, this should be the effort that elevates Jason Maynard from journeyman status to the same household name prestige as those artists.
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