Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. I won two tickets to a show of my choice and picked a night at random; I had a last date planned with a girl I’d been seeing. I knew that I’d only have time to see the opener before heading to another show across town, but hell, free tickets are free tickets. We got to the venue right on time, just as the first act was taking the stage. He was one of the guitarists for the headlining band, but evidently they had him open for them sometimes. Well, alright.
Aaron Lee Tasjan, playing solo acoustic, proceeded to absolutely blow my mind. I had no expectations but was consistently amazed by the quality of his bluesy guitar playing, his lyricism, and songs that could turn on you unexpectedly. I was alternately laughing, stomping, awe-struck, and invigorated. It was the best case scenario of showing up early to catch the opener.
Aaron released his new EP, Crooked River Burning, on Tuesday, March 25. It has two previously unreleased songs, as well as three songs that were on his previous record, The Thinking Man’s Filth. I’m going to save a lot of my accolades for Aaron’s first full-length record, which I hope will not be long in coming. When it comes to this EP, I’ll say that I don’t particularly understand some of the production choices; I feel that Aaron’s strength is in his power as a stripped down force of nature, and layered vocals and instrumentation can distract from that. I’d also have enjoyed seeing more new tracks, having already played the hell out of Thinking Man’s Filth as soon as I knew it existed. But those complaints are minor. Every artist is concerned with their own direction, and Aaron has proved with his songwriting that he’s too smart to be lead someplace he doesn’t want to go.
These tracks are great, the instrumentation is solid, and if you listen hard enough you’ll find a line or two per song that really kick you in your gut. Aaron Lee Tasjan is a train you want to get on early, because it’s gonna get crowded quick. I’m going to let his words from the final moments of his recent Daytrotter session close this review out:
“My name is Aaron Lee Tasjan. I’m living proof that one good hat, a fuzz guitar pedal, and a sordid past can go a long way to keep you in free beer and good company in this man’s America.”
The EP is only 5 tracks, so I’m not going to put them up here, but take a listen to these and pick some music up if you like what you hear.