Personnel: Aaron Lee Tasjan (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, organ, background vocals); David Vandervelde (guitar, lap steel guitar, background vocals); Charlie Peterson (saxophone, trumpet, cornet); Max Hart (piano, organ, synthesizer); Eli Thomson (synthesizer); Frank Lenz (drums, percussion, background vocals); Dan Bailey (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Eli Thomson.
Liner Note Author: BP Fallon.
Recording information: Club Casino, Huntington Beach, CA; New Monkey Studios, Van Nuys, CA; Sonikwire Studios, Irvine, CA.
Photographer: Curtis Millard.
A road-tested guitarist who's played for bands such as New York Dolls and Drivin' n' Cryin', and a singer/songwriter with a decade's worth of EPs under his belt, Aaron Lee Tasjan was armed with honed skills and stories to tell by the time New West Records offered to release his second LP, Silver Tears. The album follows a self-released full-length by a year, which in turn followed his relocation from New York to East Nashville. Tasjan's command of traditional country, folk, blues, and all related rock hybrids seems well-suited for Music City; he blends elements of these genres with a distinctly '70s songwriting manner that can recall the likes of Harry Nilsson, Robbie Robertson, and Randy Newman, among others, on Silver Tears. In one of the more Newman-esque examples, the ragtime blues tune "12 Bar Blues" opens with spoken testimony à la "Alice's Restaurant" before sliding into a gently yodeling chorus with piano, bass, and acoustic guitar. The narrative tackles bars, booze, and the quest for decent companionship rather than the draft, and picks up horns and backing vocalists before deciding his hangout's "not that great, but it's ours." It's one of a majority of songs on the album that gives the impression of a find from a stack of corner vinyl in a musty record store rather than a creature of the digital era. A clear exception to that is lead single and album highlight "Little Movies," a sparkling studio creation that lays a wistful melody over layers of keyboards and warm jangle. ("All this pretending is just a little movie that we play.) Listeners may find that other tracks on the album conjure ghosts of Stealers Wheel or even Willie Nelson, at least at moments. With a nod to Eli Thomson (Everest, Father John Misty), who produced and mixed the album, and to Tasjan's handpicked backing band, Silver Tears is steeped in musical knowledge but delivered with a lighthearted touch and plenty of personality ("I'm worth at least a million and I barely have a dime"). As friend and musician BP Fallon remarks with affection in the album's liner notes, "Aaron could've been a Wilbury just fine." ~ Marcy Donelson