I began paying attention to Aaron Lee Tasjan in a somewhat backward way. I’d heard of him and I knew he grew up in the Columbus area, but I’d never seen him live and he’d moved away at some point. One night in the summer of 2019, I checked out a show by Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ at the Rumba Cafe. I dug their music, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I knew Warren Haynes was a big fan, and I’m a big fan of Warren’s, so I figured I’d check out this veteran southern rock band in a small club. During their set, while plugging their new album, Kevn Kinney mentioned that it was produced by a Columbus native - Aaron Lee Tasjan. It was a great set and I bought a vinyl copy of Live The Love Beautiful from the merch table before I left.
Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!
New West Records - NW5418
Well, I’d heard some Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, and even owned one of their CDs, but I loved this album way more than expected. It was crazy diverse and highlighted all the best aspects of the band. Kevn Kinney’s voice, which was one of the stumbling blocks for me, sounded great. Almost like Tom Petty at some points, I thought. It was rockin’, but also spacy, and also catchy. The producer had a lot to do with this. I was impressed. It was in heavy rotation for quite a while.
So now Aaron Lee Tasjan was on my radar. Elisa picked up Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! when it came out and we both loved it. I recognized a lot of the elements I’d heard on Live The Love Beautiful, including the Tom Petty influence. At points, it sounds like a paean to Full Moon Fever. But that’s only part of the equation. There is a spaciness and melodicism that combine with a millennial lyrical viewpoint to sound distinctly like Aaron Lee Tasjan.
Now based in Nashville, Tasjan produced this record with Gregory Lattimer and it is a Production. This is a great headphone album that will often have you scrambling to figure out what instruments are making which sounds. Would I personally like more rock? Yes, but I get it. You get the sense he could go there if he wanted. “You can look at Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and say, ‘Man, those guys are doing everything right with classic rock guitar.’ I don’t think that I need to add anything to that conversation, because they are nailing it,” he says. Fair enough. This guy is paying attention.
The songwriting, production and lyrical honesty all stand out to me. You can tell that Tasjan is a music fan as well as a musician. Like Steely Dan, he doesn’t break down who plays what, which for someone like me is both frustrating and intriguing. Now I have to figure it out! Side 1 leads off with Sunday Women and the ethereal sound that carries throughout the record is immediately established. He manages to achieve denseness and airiness at the same time. By the time you get to Up All Night, you’re checking the liners to see if Jeff Lynne was involved.
Another Lonely Day is well served by a more stripped-down acoustic guitar-led arrangement, highlighting the killer melody, lyrics and knockout harmonies. Is that a theremin? By the time the needle drops on side 2, we’re well acclimated to the mood and atmosphere and the album hits its stride with Cartoon Music’s take on the current state of pop music. We get into full-blown psychedelia with Dada Bois before coming back to Earth with Not That Bad’s lament to artistic frustration.
Dedicated to his grandmother, a singer and opera lover who passed away in late 2019, Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! is the sound of an artist getting comfortable in his skin while remaining restless and adventurous in his artistic vision. You get the feeling he’s just hitting his stride. It’s exciting to consider what might come next. I’ll be paying attention.
A1 Sunday Women
A3 Up All Night
B3 Dada Bois
B4 Now You Know
B5 Not That Bad
Copyright © – New West Records, LLC
Phonographic Copyright ℗ – New West Records, LLC
Published By – Tasjan Music
Published By – Words & Music
Published By – Scot Sax Songs
Published By – Bill Town USA
Published By – Five Proud Trees
Mastered At – Sterling Sound
A&R – Kim Buie
Lacquer Cut By – Jeff Powell
Layout – Matt Etgen
Management [Business Affairs By] – Dawn Nepp
Mastered By – Greg Calbi
Mixed By – John Congleton
Other [Publishing Admin By] – Damon Booth
Photography By, Art Direction – Curtis Wayne Millard
Public Relations – Doug Hall
Recorded By – Greg Lattimer