Jason Heath And The Greedy Souls – But There’s Nowhere To Go by Carol Gronner
Jason Heath And The Greedy Souls’ new album, But There’s Nowhere To Go, is a cry from the broken belly of the American Dream, where time, neglect, and corruption have taken their toll on this grand experiment called the U.S. of A. Seems like there’s nothing left to do but howl at the moon, and set out through the wilderness of the unknown in search of a new direction.
But There’s Nowhere To Go builds on the same foundation of fiery roots-rock heard on their previous albums, which prompted Paste Magazine to call their first record, The Vain Hope Of Horse (which featured guests Tom Morello [Rage Against The Machine], Wayne Kramer [The MC5], and Nels Cline [Wilco]), “a wonderful debut: ragged, soulful, and well written.” Famed rock journalist Dave Marsh said of their second disc, Packed For Exile, “Jason Heath And The Greedy Souls speak to the heartache and joy in the world, with the wisdom not to try to separate them, and the skill to make all of it beautiful.” And American Songwriter lauded their last release, A Season Undone, writing, “…if you’re a fan of rock and roll, it deserves to be on your shortlist as one of the most heartfelt, honest and intelligently soulful rocking albums of the year.”
The new songs were mostly written as the band was on tour after the U.S. Presidential election last November. Traveling the country in its aftermath, Heath saw and heard from all walks of American life and put those observations into his new work. “It couldn’t be helped,” says Heath. “We are losing our national identity. Everyone is looking for someone else to blame. Faith in the status quo has been lost. There is a general feeling of confusion and misrepresentation, no matter who one voted for. There is a national ambience of panic, a fear of the unknown, and an overall distrust of any institution.” As Heath sings in the track “Fairfight,” “God don’t live in America …” Yes, he and his band pull no punches, but they also know that this country and what it’s supposed to stand for is well worth fighting for. The song continues: “Alright so your alibi is airtight and at first light we’ll be askin’ for a fair fight. We’ve been waiting too long… so bring it on!”
Record stores might have filed their previous releases under “Americana,” but it’s unclear what that means to the band anymore, as they’ve incorporated the musical influences of punk, soul, alternative, garage rock, blues, and jazz into their sound, while pushing the expected boundaries of a typical alt-country, folk rock, Americana production .
Each tune self-examines the American psyche, unafraid to stare unflinchingly at all its imperfections. “Postcards From The Hanging” is a forceful demand that we all remember that something is broken in this promised land that has been divided for 400 years. Lyrically recalling the practice of public lynchings attended by families after church on Sunday, it is a stark exposé on racism. Broken promises will be America’s demise, and this tune lays it all out, with echoes of Springsteen, both lyrically and musically.
In their ballad, “Miss Arizona,” Heath and his Greedy Souls weave a tale of love gone wrong with winners, losers, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, his helpless victims, and those who would like to deny others access to the American Dream. The accordion and organ of Jason Federici (son of the E Street Band’s Danny Federici) dance beautifully around the dusty-road vocals from Heath, who reminds that, “you can’t entertain angels if you don’t let them in.”
Heath takes on environmental and human destruction of our Earth in “Garden Of Machines,” with an industrial factory-sounding march driving home the fact that greed and technology cannot be sustained. “We are collapsing under its weight, and we’re running out of options, and time,” says Heath. “This sounds heavy – not your standard pop song fare – but I, and many others more qualified than myself, believe it’s a discussion that needs to happen. Before it’s too late.”
The church bells that open “South Of Babylon” indicate the harsh truths that are coming. If human beings continue to follow corruption with such complacency, plodding along like drones, there will be a steep price to pay. Justin Salmons’ furious guitar riffs fight against that notion, delivering fiery wrath as Heath points out, “the obedient ain’t guilty, they just play their part.”
“The Ballad Of The Brown Bomber” tells the story of how Heavy Weight Champion Joe Louis gave up his best fighting years to enlist in the Army to boost morale in the fight against the Nazis. For this, the IRS helped themselves to most of his money. “Being champ can be Heaven, and it can be Hell, you better have something left to sell … Hey, Joe, where did your country go?” Where did our country go is the obvious, bigger question.
“Here Comes My Savior” is a clear examination of how folks tend to blindly trust leaders and looks at where that gullibility has gotten us. It’s also an excellent showcase of the entire band, with Spencer Watson Jr. and Casey Johnson masterfully holding down the beat on bass and drums respectively, Chris Joyner (Amos Lee, Ray Lamontagne, Heart) taking charge on piano, and soulful wailings shared by guest vocalist Adele Bertei (The Contortions, Tears for Fears).
“Nowhere To Go” is a summation of the album and it’s a shotgun blast, uptempo rager that suggests that this broken-down locomotive of a country has run out of track and we need to get busy repairing it. “We’re now nationally and globally at the place where we need to, as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently stated, reach for and be touched by the better angels of our nature,” says Heath. “To give up the ghost of what we think this country is or used to be, and begin again - better. To rise. There is hope in surrender. It’s all possible, but only if we’re honest with ourselves about our past, and willing to come together to unite as one for the common good.”
This is much like the musical alchemy within the songs on this crucial album – each is diverse, concerned about its own subject matter, and excellent unto itself – but when listened to as a whole, one really gains an understanding for what it’s all about, what we’re all about. The sacred and the profane. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Life, liberty and the pursuit of truth, beauty, and happiness. It’s up to us.
There’s nowhere to go… except up. Add this to your playlist for the road trip there.
But There’s Nowhere To Go is available everywhere September 29, 2017.