An Honest Power
Nashville-based singer/songwriter Jon Byrd—not to be mixed-up with another artist named Jonathan Byrd working the folk/country circuit—has usually relegated his time in the shadows to being a back-up session musician for the likes of Davis Raines, Buck Jones, Stephen Simmons and Suzette Lawrence. However, in recent years, Byrd has been moving toward the spotlight by becoming a consummate performer in his own right, which is now consolidated with his dazzling sophomore album, Down at the Well of Wishes, a strikingly rich collection of nine Americana originals. The thing about Byrd is that he has a well-worn and rough voice that could draw a comparison to a more countrified Leonard Cohen, and his engaging and engrossing songs are nearly peerless and exist in a class of his own. Down at the Well of Wishes is strictly a b.s.-free affair: these are simply dressed down (mostly) ballads in the best pseudo-Cosmopolitan country tradition that aren’t syrupy and saccharine, and invite you in as a result of their startling honesty.
While Down at the Well of Wishes is a slick and well-polished affair with an ear towards being played on country radio, Byrd’s choice of material is far from the madding crowd of your usual honky-tonk love songs. “I Once Knew a Woman” is a pining, aching song about unfettered lust that unwittingly gets transformed into spousal abuse, while “A Fond Farewell” is a searing ode to the closing of one’s favourite pub. Meanwhile, “Alabama Asphalt” is a bluesy, nimbly picked swagger of a song that growls with the ferocious intensity of a junkyard dog. In the liner notes, Byrd remarks that he and one of his bandmates set out to make a record “in the strongest terms” and not “what we call a Nashville ‘songwriting resume’”. The effort shows. While one could argue that Down at the Well of Wishes could use a little more grit and grime in the production department, a tiny quibble, the smooth and relaxed feel of the proceedings are a worthy balm to a genre that has its share of commercialization and crassness. Down at the Well of Wishes is simply a wise and mature record that gently ropes you in and makes you a believer in the power of Byrd’s particularly downtrodden vision. An all-around solid record.
// Sound Affects
"The man whose songs were recorded by Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson, Ricky Skaggs, David Allan Coe, The Highwaymen, and countless others succumbs to time’s cruel cue that the only token of permanence we have to offer are the effects of shared moments and memories.READ the article