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Aaron Lee Tasjan
November 4 @ 8:00 pm
7PM DOORS / 8PM SHOW
LIMITED NUMBER OF PREMIUM SEATING TICKETS AVAILABLE
COVID-19 POLICY UPDATE: The Grey Eagle requires all patrons attending performances to provide proof of vaccination or negative test within 48 hours prior to the event. Currently Buncombe Co. mandates that masks be worn indoors. THIS MEANS YOU NEED TO MASK UP. Patrons will need to provide physical or digital documentation of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test. Professional negative test results must be dated no more than 48 hours prior to the event. At-home testing will not be accepted.
Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!, the new album from Aaron Lee Tasjan, a genre-bending rising star who’s bold reimagination of classic sounds and songwriting has established him as one of the most idiosyncratic artists of his generation.
His self-titled fourth album is a masterclass in interstellar pop, vintage glam, 90s Anglophilia and experimental and psychedelic rock & roll. Irreverent lyrics may show Tasjan with his tongue in his cheek, but Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! is an album with something to say. His autobiographical lyrics reflect on self-acceptance, expose his own contradictions and offer a unique self-deprecating critique on the millennial generation’s simultaneous capacity for great empathy and narcissism. The album also explores notions of mental health, identity and sexuality and is dedicated to the alternative kids who also felt “other” growing up.
Tasjan has been on a shapeshifting musical journey his whole life. From his glam rock roots, when Jimmy Iovine told him “guys in make-up don’t sell records” and Lady Gaga would open for his band in NYC, to his legend-hopping guitar sideman days, where he played with everyone from The New York Dolls to Sean Lennon and traveled the globe, collecting road war tales from doing mushrooms with Bono to twitter spats with Peter Frampton.
His search for a musical locus and geographic wanderings began in his early teens. They took him from Delaware, to California, to New York, to his current home in Nashville. He moved there in 2015 to play guitar in a band that imploded on his arrival. Through dumb luck, he quickly landed a deal with New West Records and became an established musical entity, releasing a diverse succession of critically acclaimed albums that drew the attention of everyone from NPR Music to Rolling Stone.
Despite this success, seeds of doubt started to bloom. After multiple musical incarnations, his label questioned Tasjan’s direction and where he should go next. So did Tasjan, as he internalized their recommendations, musical paralysis ensued. He toured through 2019 and then came to a realization that he needed to give himself permission to go rogue. Sparked by the fond memory of an LSD-laced songwriting session that occured years ago, when he felt at his most accomplished and free. With
equal parts uncertainty and recklessness — he hid from his label and covertly crafted Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! co-producer Gregory Lattimer and mixed with John Congleton (Angel Olson, Bill Callahan, Sharon Van Etten, Lana Del Ray)….
There was no need for doubt. With humor, wit and irony, Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!’s personal and hopeful vision was a coded message to himself and showed him, self-belief was all he needed to get out of his own way. He feels grateful to his label for “motivating him to prove them and himself wrong.” Tasjan’s determined pursuit of his singular sound, led him to a sense of musical realization and his most compelling album to date.
Whilst his tour plans were pushed during the pandemic he’s been working with Noon Chorus and been delivering some great live streams and historically he has opened for Marcus King, Greta Van Fleet and opening festival stages for Willie Nelson, Jeff Tweedy and Social Distortion with his band at festivals from Stagecoach to Summer Fest to Bonnaroo.
For Chelsea Lovitt, the multifaceted music of the South is her inspiration. She is immersed in the traditions of country, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, and bluegrass, and her bona fides on guitar and fiddle match her vocal chops, which go from pure honky tonk to rockabilly to folk and rock ‘n’ roll. For sure, these days plenty of artists–in Nashville and elsewhere–use the criss-crossing map of Southern music as their handbook. What Chelsea Lovitt knows is that it’s a map that leads you to new places while laying out the eternal truths. Above all, Lovitt is a writer, so you can bring in Faulkner, romantic poets like John Keats and certainly Tennessee Williams as guides to her sensibility. Her music is complex, full of contradictions, which means she honors the mystery of the Southern tradition.
The contradictions mentioned above are what drive Chelsea Lovitt’s Nashville-recorded debut album You Had Your Cake, So Lie in It. It’s an inspired collection of various, mostly Southern musical approaches. As the record’s title implies, it is also, in subtle and personal ways, a political record that questions America’s obsession with material wealth, toxic relationships between men and women, and warns the way the Trump era corrodes values and isolates human beings. You Had Your Cake, So Lie in It is also about tradition and family, and the vagaries of human identity.
Even more, it’s a great, raucous, garage-country-Rocknroll record, referencing a Mick Jagger swagger and Gram Parsons’ elegance in country-rock. On “De Donna,” Lovitt evokes Parsons, and writes about her mother in a very humanistic, very nuanced song that’s playful and loving. With its piquant acoustic guitar, “De Donna” invokes yet another Southern iconoclast, Memphis’ Alex Chilton, during his Big Star period. Like the rest of the album, “De Donna,” confounds category, updates the tradition.
Lovitt recorded You Had Your Cake, So Lie in It, at Nashville studio The Bomb Shelter with producer Andrija Tokic, whose credits include helming albums by Alabama Shakes, Margo Price and Buffalo Clover, the Deslondes and Fly Golden Eagle. It is, indeed, a great garage-rock album–opener “If I Had a Dollar” features Lovitt’s Wanda Jackson-style vocals and guitar and organ that travel down Dylan’s fabled Highway 61.
“Beanstalk” references the great Memphis-recorded Sun Records classic “Raunchy” and it’s about illusions–beanstalks that climb to the sky. For a change of pace, CL and her band, including ace guitarist Marc Ottavi, whose brilliant playing helps define You Had Your Cake, So Lie in It, detour through country-soul, and through Lovitt’s psyche, in “State of Denial.” It swings like Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and the Stones on Exile on Main St.: “Baby, I was born in a state/That dug the ditch for denial,” Lovitt sings.
Growing up in Hattiesburg, CL took opera lessons, learned fiddle, and began playing in local venues as a teenager. After graduating from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi–she studied English/literature and philosophy there–she moved to Nashville for the first time in 2008. She worked on her songwriting, made valuable connections with similarly minded Nashvillians like the rock-blues-soul band The Blackfoot Gypsies, and then went to France, where she taught English and guitar. After dividing her time between New Orleans and London in the next few years, she returned to Nashville in 2016.
The context in Cake is Dylan-esque–Lovitt’s lyrics track her struggle in Trump’s world, but they remain rooted in personal experience. The music is equally complex, but it’s the result of old-fashioned techniques. As CL says, “We got a natural sound, and things just go that way in that studio. Tracking live and to tape sure helps. I was mostly isolated in the vocal/rhythm booth, but we really didn’t have to do that many takes. We tracked nine songs in a week.”
A born traveller, Lovitt tours the country and plays shows in Nashville at celebrated venues like the American Legion and neo-honky tonk gathering spot Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge, incorporating well-chosen covers into her live show. Her takes on classics like Parsons’ “Luxury Liner” and the Arthur Crudup/Elvis Presley standard “That’s All Right, Mama” go back to her deep Southern roots. But she is a thoroughly modern musician. In Music City, Nashville Scene wrote about You Had Your Cake, “ a shape-shifting artist who can turn from alt-country to garage rock….Her insights into America’s culture of excess make a unique example of the political album.”
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