Jason Eady – Daylight & Dark
Perhaps with good reason, country music has long been associated with drinking songs. After all, what better way for a good ol’ boy to unwind after a hard day’s work than by heading down to his favorite bar to hoist a few cold ones? But amid the laughter and the clinking glasses, a darker reality exists. Barrooms, you see, aren’t just places for having fun; they’re also places where people go to drown their sorrows.
Texas singer-songwriter Jason Eady recognizes this dichotomy on Daylight & Dark, a themed album that examines the perilous nature of drinking too much. Without any hint of preachiness, Eady lays out a honky-tonk song cycle about a man’s descent into alcohol-laced oblivion. The drinker pays a heavy price for his hedonistic ways, losing the woman he loves, his friends, and, worst of all, his dignity. Indeed, it can be difficult to keep a grip on everything you want and care about when one hand is firmly affixed to the bottle.
The album’s protagonist runs into trouble during the swinging barroom stomp of the opening “Ok Whiskey,” where his boozing ways lands him in jail. This is only the beginning of his problems, however, because when he gets out of the slammer he’s faced with a sad reality: She’s gone, he’s alone, and he can’t stop drinking.
From there he drifts from bar to bar, halfheartedly searching for a way to right his out-of-control life. At the center of his journey is a bumper crop of story songs that are rich in detail. Producer Kevin Welch, who himself knows a thing or two about songwriting, keeps things stripped down and gently swinging, thereby allowing each song to communicate the essence of its emotion via the relaxed grit in Eady’s voice. It’s old school honky-tonk music, but it’s also thinking music as the protagonist contemplates his guilt and shame on the introspective “Temptation” and on the barroom ballad “One, Two…Many.” He then moves onto frank self-assessment in “Liars & Fools,” claiming that he would prefer to be the latter but is in reality the former: “I watched as it all came undone/She was a fool for leavin’ my lies/And now I’m left with the damage I’ve done.”
Things take a possible turn for the better on “We Might Just Miss Each Other,” a sprightly duet with Courtney Patton in which the man finds himself face-to-face with his ex in (where else?) a bar. But any hope of a reunion is quickly dashed in the desolate title track when the man wakes up alone, with a headache, and with more questions than his fragile psyche than he can handle. This begins a trilogy of songs where the man hits rock bottom, eventually coming to terms with his despair in an elegiac reading of Chris Stapleton’s “Whiskey & You” in which he reckons “I drink because I’m lonesome, now I’m lonesome because I drink.”
The man pieces his life back together on the album’s final two tracks: a superb reading of Adam Hood’s “Late Night Diner” that finds him easing up on his carousing ways, and “A Memory Now,” an upbeat number featuring cameos by Hayes Carll and the Turnpike Troubadours’ Evan Felker. The last song finds the man in a joyous mood: His woman is gone for good, but he’s cleaned up his act and is therefore ready to live his life and let memories be memories.
This is a country songwriter’s record that brings to mind such classics as Merle Haggard’s Back to the Barrooms, Gary Stewart’s Out of Hand, and Vern Gosdin’s 24 Karat Heartache. That’s rarified air in country music circles, but Daylight & Dark deserves to be in such company because its a heck of an accomplishment.