It Magazine

The Rankin Files
June
2005 - Mark Rankin


   
Jason Spooner, singer/songwriter, is "gearing up for the summer" with a groovy band backing him up , playing shows, meeting new listeners, and of course, selling his CD, "Lost Houses". After taking some writing time last winter I'm sure he's ready to kick it up.

But there's more here to touch upon. Spooner is a valued member of the acoustic community. Building the website for The Maine Songwriters Association, he has played a critical role in opening the gates for Maine songwriters to gel in a common forum. Finding time to maintain that site, and his own as well is ambitious to be sure.
Now, keeping a full work schedule and all those gigs: This man is a runaway train!

The quiet Spooner one meets soon becomes talkative in interview. This was a pleasant surprise as he comes off a bit shy. Just a few years ago he was living in the mid-coast area "writing songs and doing very little else" as he narrates. He decided to come up with a plan. Setting small, realistic goals, he eventually came to Portland. Spooner's desire to involve himself in the folk music world lead him curiously to Boston, where he found a listening public enjoying singer/songwriters at virtually every corner and cafe. "Jealous" at the support these songwriters were getting, he soon began to promote for listening rooms here in Portland. Finding himself not alone in this vision the support for local songwriting has climbed to new places (most recently, Acoustic Coffee House, 32 Danforth St. Portland). The humble beginnings of, "Me. Songwriters!", as Spooner excites, "What a story! From just a few of us on a stage surrounding a congo drum... '', to nearing 340 members and still growing. There's no doubt that there is a homey community feeling about Maine Songwriters. A place to go and be who you are in music. Each musician with his/her own touch of experiential "pallet" as Spooner defines.

Defining "pallet" he does. Spooner's music is distinct and diverse simultaneously. ''Who I Am'' offers a likeness to Simon and Garfunkel, and maybe a little Bob Dylan. "Big Black Hole" has a folkie country flavor as he searches for answers contemplating the past. "All my life I've been overcome with those memories from the past ...there is a big black hole inside.... fill it with pride." with a hinting celtic resilience in the accent to finish the chorus. This song is provoking as often the vastness of the horizons we face in our day to day lives become overwhelming. Before we know it , so much time has gone by. Another commonality of songwriter style music shows here in " Big Black Hole " as it stimulates relatable thought.

Now, ''Waterhole"! ''There ain't no need to talk about it... cause i don't want to lose control.'' The teasing harp... The slide guitar ... The rolling snare and beat with that groovy bass brings this piece to life. As I peck away at these keys I just wanna' get up and sing into the telephone and project with soul! ''Footprints on the doormat baby and the size don't look like me...I'm beggin' you darlin' please, I'm about to fall down onto my bended knees...you've been up and down takin' more than your share of water from the waterhole." The old school style acoustic blues finale put's this song away with the punch and full expression necessary to achieve the shivering effect that runs up the back of the listener. This music is really that good.

Having spent time in the London blues clubs drinking warm beer and playing with, and to, friendly crowds was no waste of time. It was there that Spooner's bluesy feel developed with a respect and reverence for the traditional approach London has perpetuated since the birth of London Blues, one of the establishments being Lexis Korner's Blues Incorporated (a reference from Sonic Cool, by Joe S. Harrington). Being college age and experiencing London Blues to this extent is an asset with which Spooner will engage audiences for as long as he plays and sings. His appreciation for that music shines remarkably clear on "Lost Houses" in the second nature.

The Spaniards didn't get the blues as in London, and I have to chuckle recalling the interview. I imagine the blank faces expecting Spanish and classical guitar and hearing authentic style blues instead. But, I have to believe there's just a hint of influence from Spain (enhancing that London blues experience ) in Spooner's guitar work, especially, though still subtly, on '' Who I Am " as the guitar line is decorated with unusual picking up and down the chords with minor tones, combined with the strumming that slaps out the tempo.

Now the live show is a well crafted and a smooth running machine mixing a diversity of genres. Ranging from The Violent Femmes to Peter Tosh, and Johnny Cash to Prince, The Jason Spooner Band pleases audiences with renditions of reggae that sound country. Country songs that are played reggae. The response has been enthusiastic. A way for Spooner to give something familiar but new at once.

As good as ''Lost Houses'' is, Spooner insists that the next release, because it will draw from such a well seasoned pallet, " ...will have a more organic band feel to it." And that's where this act will hit the next plateau. With Andy Rice on bass, a long time jazz student, and player, " provides a complex and crucial sonic glue that holds the band together" as put by Spooner( the ''pallet'' thickens). Reed Chambers on drums is no stranger here in Portland as he has played with Kate Shrock, Relishgruv, and Zion Train. "Chambers' playing provides the perfect compliment to Spooner's subtle vocal style and guitar work and Rice's uniquely original approach to bass." quote Spooner.

With a mix like this I predict big things coming for The Jason Spooner Band. Put a fork in it. Spooner takes the cake. Mahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhk!