Monday, November 06, 2006

Jayson Bales, Cruel and Unusual

Jayson Bales is both a songwriter and a storyteller. Born, bred, and to the bone in Texas, he tells in music of his life, his state, and his country. His songs are fast fictions in which tales and truths are intertwined in melodic roots music. Introspective and retrospective on Cruel and Unusual, thirty-three year old Bales takes stock of his life, his family's influence, and America in 2006 and asks hard questions.

Storm clouds brewing up ahead. Maybe it's the clouds, or lack of rest, but I don't know why I'm so damned depressed.

What Bales hasn't yet survived after a quarterlife crisis is heading straight for midlife crisis. A family man, a common man, Bales has bought wholly into the ideal of the American man. He takes a stand, he questions, and he searches his soul in three minute pop songs, as Woody Guthrie did, less than a generation ago. On "Half Right" Bales gives his due to the man willing to take a position.

"Some thought he fought a useless fight, but at least he took a stand,
that's gotta make him half right.
... the worst thing is not to stand for anything at all
... the truth may make you bleed but at least it'd be nice to know
... though you may not like what you find
... take a stand, you're gonna be half right."

Bales is willing to take that position, yet questions his own conviction.

"Everyday the colors turn grey. The black and white of my youth died just yesterday. You ask what I believe; I tell you I'm not sure."

Bales is both the beating heart of Texas - old school and family-centered, love God, love your fellow man, love your country - and the new mind of America. The tenets that have shaped his life are obvious. Though cynical about the present, he lives with the greater hope of God and heaven.

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