Probably the best introduction to Jon Byrd and his music is the fact that Mojo Magazine has proclaimed him to be the crafter of "Americana as it was and as it should be". I rag on a lot of music-crit rags and on a lot of critics, but Mojo is one of the best music venues there is, and Brit crits tend to kick a mudhole in American reviewers and then jump in and kick all the mud back out again. And it takes no more than the first two cuts of this CD to let us know that Mojo knows its stuff, cuz Down at the Well of Wishes is 100% gin-yoo-wine, brothers and sisters, with allusions to Gram Parsons not at all out of place. There's that much honesty and candor present, not to mention a full-blooded jes' foks ambiance.
There's also, and I never thought I'd hear this again, more than a little Tennessee Ernie Ford in Byrd. I also detect a bit of Will Callery as well. The guy seems to understand everything about folk, country, roots, Nashville, and kindred aesthetics almost as though he'd helped write the rules. You'll catch touches of the old Village and Ash Grove days, Grand Ol' Opry, Hullabalooo, and a plethora of whatnots. You'll also more than once get the feeling you're treading down Main Street in a darker Mayberry, one that finally caught up with the outside world. I Once Knew a Woman is the diametric opposite of the ocean of confectionated love songs choking out the airwaves, a deep pensée on human aberration in relationships.
There's no giddy-up here. Byrd's work is thoughtful and measured, and I'm pretty damned sure Utah Phillips would be quick to cover Easy to be Free, an ode to the loner, to the independent soul who pays his and her own dues for the crime of nonconformance. Steel guitarists Alex McCollough and Pat Severs add hugely to the atmospherics, liquid tones dulcet and captivating as Byrd wields an acoustic, slipping in small tasty solos every so often. Well of Wishes is one of those CDs that zeroes in on the song as a whole construct in and of itself, with little in the way of instrumental interludes but that doesn't stop the band from shining and I'm tellin' ya: this Alex McCollough guy is damned excellent, Byrd's psychic third arm.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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