Singer-songwriter Jonathan Vassar, who will be unveiling a new solo album tonight at Michaux House, has been pleasing RVA audiences with his special down-to-earth blend of folk, country, and rock sounds for over a decade now.
Singer-songwriter Jonathan Vassar, who will be unveiling a new solo album tonight at Michaux House, has been pleasing RVA audiences with his special down-to-earth blend of folk, country, and rock sounds for over a decade now. From his early solo work, recorded and released as small-scale DIY artifacts, to his more polished recent efforts, often featuring the backing of his band, The Speckled Bird, Vassar’s music has always pumped pure heart and soul through the speakers and into the lives of his listeners. Now, he and his longtime label, Triple Stamp Records, will be unveiling a new Vassar solo effort that is really a combination of two different recordings from two different eras.
Vassar’s first release was the 9 Songs EP, recorded at Bryan Hoffa’s Domestic Studios in 2001 when Vassar was 21 years old. It was released in a limited edition of 100 copies, and is long out of print (though you can hear it now on Bandcamp–isn’t technology wonderful?). In 2002, Vassar recorded with Hoffa again for what was intended to be a followup EP. The project, known as 8 Songs, never made it to fruition. As Vassar explains on his blog, “Shortly after the material was recorded I experienced a breakdown that left me on the side of the road for 4 years before I got what I needed to get back in the car.” His return to performing and recording in 2007 was marked by the release of a new set of songs, released on Triple Stamp Records as The Hours And The Days. But in spite of his having moved on to newer material, Vassar retained his belief that the 8 Songs EP was “the best material I’ve written.”
Now, with the help of Triple Stamp Records and Bryan Hoffa, Vassar has finally finished that material and prepared it for release. He combines that 8 song EP with a new 8 song EP: Mercy For The Undeserving, a collection recorded this year by Allen Bergendahl at Hope Church. The two sessions, recorded a decade apart, have been combined as one release–and their pairing is intentional. As Vassar explains on his blog, “The new set is deliberately in the same vein [as 8 Songs]: short narrative songs with minimal accompaniment.” This is a departure from the more lush soundscapes of his recent material with The Speckled Bird, but as those who have been following Vassar’s work for the past decade surely know, the man’s music has a unique resonance when he performs it all by himself. For proof, check out two songs from the 16 song collection Vassar releases tonight below. “Motel 6” is from 8 Songs, recorded in 2002. “The Heart Of It All” is from Mercy For The Undeserving, recorded 2013 and featuring Curtis Patton on pedal steel guitar.
Come out to Michaux House, on the corner of Birch and Franklin Streets, tonight for the Mercy For The Undeserving/8 Songs record release show. Doors open at 7 PM, music begins at 7:45 with opening sets from Elizabeth Whitmire and Philadelphia’s Chris Kasper. Admission is free, but bring some cash, because you’ll want to leave with your own copy of Mercy For The Undeserving. For more info about this show, click here.