Aaron Lee Tasjan
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
There are as many fascinating back stories for the thousands of singer-songwriters that populate Nashville’s music scene as there are players. But being a member of the later lineup of the New York Dolls is unique to Aaron Lee Tasjan. And that’s just one of the résumé builders that moved him from his Ohio birthplace to Boston then New York on his way to releasing this follow-up to last year’s impressive indie debut In The Blazes.
That album balanced often caustic humor with memorable songwriting, a recipe he continues here. “It’s a hard life, so people get ready/ They’ll give you loose gravel and call it rock steady,” he sings on the opening “Hard Life,” a reflection on the challenges of contemporary living. Tasjan relishes in musical diversity, ranging from the sweet yet darkly melodic, slightly psychedelic Lennon/ELO influenced ballad “Little Movies” (the lyrics provide the disc’s title) to the Highway 61 ramble of “Out Of My Mind” and the sighing country/folk of “On Your Side.”
Tasjan gets bluesy on both the serious “Refugee Blues” and the lighthearted “12 Bar Blues” where he plays with the double meaning of bar as both a musical term and a drinking establishment over a spoken word story that shows he could be a formidable stand-up comic if this music thing doesn’t pan out. But the gorgeous, reflective “Memphis Rain,” with its reverbed guitar and instantly memorable melody, deserves to be as much a standard as Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis” or Elvis’ “Kentucky Rain” and shows Tasjan is just a song away from the big time.
Yet, as he says, “Success ain’t about being better than everyone else, it’s about being better than yourself.” If that’s so, Silver Tears is an achievement that would make any singer-songwriter proud.