With a voice reminiscent of blind blues guitarist Jeff Healey, multi-faceted roots-rocker Jason Didner comes blazing on the scene with
American Road, one man's vision of the country as he sees it. And it's quite a vision. He wrote the songs, plays all the instruments himself, mastered and produced the disc on his own, and owns the record company, Way Forward Records. A truly independent recording.
From the first (and title) song, "American Road," Didner envelops the listener in his complex world with catchy hooks and rousing riffs. He's got an individualized view of the country today and isn't afraid to let us know it. By keeping the song personal, he's made it universal and all sides are covered in lyrics like "the left side's misdirected/and the right side's out of touch."
Of course, in the face of a world along the "American Road," somedays Didner only wants to spend "A Day in My Cave." This, combined with the previous number, shows the two different sides of any human--the fighter and the hider--and Didner is brave and confident enough in himself to let us know that he is just like us.
"Building Up/Wall of Sound" and "Instant Love (Just Add Water)" are somewhat lesser efforts, the former due to a lack of musical cohesion (although the beginning instrumental is fantastic, bringing a mandolin sound from a doubled recording of an acoustic guitar). Didner's voice is passionate, but the song ends abruptly with a repeat of the first line that seems arbitrarily placed, as if he couldn't come up with an ending. The latter is an attempt at a reggae style that unfortunately falls flat with a lyrical cliche that, while clever, feels out of place in the midst of these intensely personal songs. The novelty of it wears off quickly.
The hand percussion in "My Gentle Warrior" takes Didner's ode to his diabetic wife up to another level. It's a beautiful sentiment that reveals more meaning with each subsequent listen. Positivity continues on "Glass Half Full." "I'm Not the Wind Beneath Your Wings" makes an engaging impression despite the unoriginal title and chorus due to energetic guitar work and drum programming, and lyrics that shine on their own merit and deserve different surroundings.
"Enemy of My Enemy" features Scott Landers on guitars and his grinding heavy metal style suits this war song well. More guests appear on "Will You Be My Brother?" Pete Romanowski of Europica wrote the lyrics, co-wrote the music with Didner, and provides the spoken introduction. Ed Drury provides a synthesized saxophone that makes this new-agey ska song appeal to me, despite my general indifference to that style of music. It's catchy, has a swaying beat, and a message in its chorus of "even if love don't conquer the world/I will be your brother."
"Stand Tall United" is a moving vision of New York after 9/11 and the album ends on a high note with another "road" song, "The High Road," a tribute to his social worker aunt and how she helps people through tough times and guides them back to the right path. However, it is general enough to resonate with anyone who has a special person on whom they rely to keep them grounded.
And thus ends Jason Didner's vision of America, ours and his own,
American Road. This is an album that has a lot to say and isn't afraid to say it bluntly, offering an opportunity for others to share in his views and realize how closely they resemble their own. I can't imagine an individual who won't identify with a few of the songs here, and it's easy to listen to, as well. If this is his debut, I eagerly look forward to what Didner has to say in his future recordings.
JASON DIDNER: American Road
Clean-cut rocker with Electric Passion and Wit - an engaging ride through hard rock, blues, progressive, reggae, and folk.
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