PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Jordan Chassan: East of Bristol, West of Knoxville

Steve Horowitz

Chassan's living in his own private Tennessee and there ain't no place he'd rather be singing and playing his homemade music.

Jordan Chassan

East of Bristol, West of Knoxville

Label: Strong
US Release Date: 2005-04-26
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

Critics love Appalachian musician Gillian Welch. After four solid albums, years of touring, and her work on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, Welch frequently receives praise for her Americana efforts. But there was a time, when she first started out, that critics lampooned the Manhattan-born, Los Angeles-bred, and Boston-educated lass as inauthentic and even somewhat of a usurper because of her lack of genealogical and geographical Southern roots. Welch contributes vocals on Jordan Chassan's first album in more than 12 years. Like Welch, the Montclair, New Jersey native also sings Southern-style country folk music, but he's no more or less authentic than Welch is. Although Chassan currently lives and records at his home outside Nashville, the Tennessee location referred to in the title of his latest disc East of Bristol, West of Knoxville exists mostly in his head. He's not really trying to fool anyone. He doesn't affect a fake accent or anything. Chassan just imagines a musical space where he thinks his songs would fit, and "East of Bristol..." seems sufficiently descriptive for his simple and often absurd tunes full of homespun values.

The most striking aspect of this disc is its sonic roominess. Chassan plays a number of different instruments including acoustic and electric guitars, Baldwin and Wurlitzer organs, electric bass, mandolin, and spoons. Jellyroll Johnson provides harmonica accompaniment on most tracks, as does drummer Larry Atamanuik. Chassan recorded most of the songs on a vintage two-track analog recorder at a studio he built in a barn. The songs sound spacious, an effect that the relatively easy pace of many of the tunes enhances.

Lyrically the songs concern life, love, and desire. Chassan plays with the words in a lighthearted manner that recalls the works of Roger Miller and John Prine, singing in a blithe voice, "Maybe I'm lucky but I don't know / People always ask me everywhere I go / Is it hard work being a fool? / I make it look so easy as a general rule". Many of the songs express positive sentiments, a refreshing if difficult task. Anyone can write a blues song. Complaining is easy. Chassan knows this and usually takes it the other way. "Sometimes things just don't work out" he sings, but quickly continues: "Sometimes things just do / Things just do / Things just do." He sounds happily startled by his good fortune at finding the right girl to love.

Chassan even sounds chirpy on the sad songs. He sings the title words to "Cheater Cheater Cheater", a tune about a girl who's been unfaithful to him every since the wedding night as if he's a kid going "liar, liar, pants on fire". There's no venom or hurt in his voice. Some songs have more serious concerns, but Chassan lays off the heavy sentiments for more heartfelt responses. "Oh there is nothing wrong with me / That love sweet love won't cure," he sings on "That Destination", a song about death. He expresses his belief in the power of love on almost every cut on the disc.

The most peculiar song musically is the one on which Welch accompanies Chassan, "Wound Up Way Too Tight". The track features a chiming Wurlitzer playing the melody. The ringing organ would sound more at home at a roller rink or carnival than as a lead instrument on a country tune. As the title suggests, the song's narrator is crazy. When Welch and Chassan join together in vocal harmony to croon "I want my mind back feeling all right", the vocal inflections make it clear that the narrator has already lost sanity. It's a strange tune, one sure to end up on some future Weirdsville or Dr. Demento compilation. Welch and Chassan sing it deadpan, as if it's normal to be nuts, and maybe it is. The song acknowledges that we live in dark times. Maybe being mad is the sanest response. Chassan's living in his own private Tennessee, but it's nice of him to let us into his world.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.