This new record, 'The Vain Hope of Horse' is such a great listen primarily because it is so remarkably solid in its point of view. A point of view that plumbs emotional and intellectual depths rarely seen. Musically and lyrically, this record is a trip into the hearts and minds of Jason and his Greedy Souls.
The tone of the record is hopeful, tinged with sadness.
Lyrically, the songs give clues about his struggles. Whether the struggles are personal like in 'Nowhere Place', a lullaby set in a desperate night. Or if they are the struggles of the poor and disenfranchised, he finds a bittersweet spot where the personal intersects with the political.
Bittersweet may be where Heath lives. But '...Horse' is not without energetic forays into the whimsical.
In acknowledgement of the fact that a Revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having, Heath has penned an ode to the ladies of social justice like the eloquent Emma Goldman. Aptly titled 'Anarchist Girl', the song captures the spirit of emotional freedom and levity that Heath endeavors to remind himself and us, is what makes life worth living. And worth fighting for. Comrade Wayne Kramer's guitar work on this song propels it from solid to sublime.
Musically, the band weaves a tapestry which mirrors the delicately balanced paradox of hope and pain in the lyrics. The deft interplay of harmony and texture between The Greedy Souls makes this record one that rewards the listener time and again. A melancholy, soaring guitar line of Matt Johnson’s is matched by a cheerful quip from Jason Federici's organ or accordion. A delicate mood, set by the plaintive violin of Ysanne Spevack or a heartbreaking piano line of Chris Joyner’s, is usurped by a harmonica that sounds like it's being blown by a prizefighter trying to catch his breath. All held together by the strength and tender touch of rhythm provided by Scot Falkenstien (Bass) and Abraham Etz (drums, percussion).
Joining in this musical conversation are some more of Heath's fellow travelers. Nels Cline's mournful guitar work on 'The Landlord' evokes pathos that illuminates a dimension to Heath's indignant lyrics that's hard to imagine the song without. Tom ‘The Nightwatchman’ Morello lends his eerie baritone on 'Thunderstruck' to chilling effect, as well as some touching guitar work on the prayerful 'On Our Way Home'.
Heath grew up with a guitar, and this record is a scrapbook of that ongoing process. At times the songs on '...Horse' look like his shadow, or like his writing on the wall, the songs may sound like his footprints, or feel like a blanket he's pulled over himself to stop shivering. Whatever they are, the songs are clear emanations of a uniquely generous and gifted soul.