- September 25, 2020
- Henry Carrigan
- Album Reviews
by Henry Carrigan (@henry.carrigan), Folk Alley
Notes tumble out of Jordan Tice’s guitar like rivulets of a pure, clear mountain stream. Sometimes, as in “Walkin’,” they’re a frothy torrent; other times, as in “Bad Little Idea,” they leap over one another in frolicsome somersaults. The beauty of Tice’s songs lies in the purity of his playing: he never rushes a phrase; he never obscures one note by playing another over it; he always plays the just-right note, following his musical intuition as his fingers move up and down the frets, producing innovative tunes and writing inventive music that lies beneath his sometimes humorous lyrics. Motivational Speakeasy features Tice, known for his work with Hawktail (Brittany Haas and Paul Kowert) alone with his guitar, and on this solo effort he conducts us into the beauty of the world he’s created by following down the notes.
The album opens with a folk blues, “Tell Me Mama,” whose playful verses and crafty fretwork echo David Bromberg’s work; on the instrumental bridge, Tice’s fingers nimbly walk notes up and down the frets, sending us down several paths before joining up again at the verse. His vocals respond almost note-for-note to his guitar, and he name checks a well-known children’s book in his tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “yeah, you give a mouse a cookie/he asks you for a drink/you give me some of your lovin’/it’s all that I can think about, babe.” If you close your eyes while listening to the jaunty, take-life-as-it-comes “Matter of Time”—“you’re going to make it where you’re going in a matter of time”—you might swear you’re hearing Leo Kotke or John Fahey. The minor chord psychedelic folk “Creation’s Done” slides along a bass guitar string note in the verses before it brightens into jazz rhythm strums in the chorus. The interplay of bright chords and discordant chords echoes the interplay between the goodness of creation and the chaos wrought by humans in this good creation. At least two of the tracks on Motivational Speakeasy capture the syncopation of walking or strolling down a familiar street: “Walkin’” and “Stratford Waltz.” While the former evokes the sometimes frantic pace of walking, the latter, a lush instrumental, indeed breezily saunters down a broad avenue—named for Stratford Avenue in the Inglewood neighborhood in Nashville—at a relaxing pace. “Stratford Waltz” unfolds slowly, gently meandering down its musical path. The album closes much as it began, with a crafty blues tune, “Goin’ on Down,” that echoes Paul Simon’s tunes.
Motivational Speakeasy, produced by The Milk Carton Kids’ Kenneth Pattengale, shines a light on Tice’s sparkling guitar work and his effortlessly creative songwriting. The album invites us into a place where we can immerse ourselves in the crystalline waters of Tice’s music.
Motivational Speakeasy is available HERE.