There’s been a lot of panic around Nashville lately, and without coming off biased, I’ve got to say, most of it is justifiable. Country music has been losing quite a bit of ground in the last few years to a very unlikely competitor – indie rock. That’s right, you didn’t misread what I just wrote. Indie artists, particularly of the pastoral singer/songwriter persuasion, have been slowly but surely stealing away listeners and their accompanying record-buying dollars away from the country charts for almost half a decade now. Why? Well, it’s simple really. FM country radio has been moving more and more towards pop/rock tracks from “hybrid” artists instead of showing support for rootsy acoustic musicians who are concerned with making straight up old school country music. Their true fans are as perplexed as the artists themselves, and moreover, they’re left searching for something to fill the void.
That’s where indie folk artists like Jeffrey Dallet come into the picture. Dallet is hardly a country musician – in fact, he’s possibly the antithesis of everything that most people associate with country music. He comes off like a little bit of a hippie in his micro-instrumentalism, and there’s a certain punky edge to his sound that reminds me of Johnny Hobo or some of the 80’s Austin-based guitar slingers that paved the way for alternative singer/songwriters in the 1990’s. But where he appeals to the Nashville crowd is in that unvarnished, naked conveyance of his songcraft. There’s no frills, no added garnish to get between us and his music. We don’t feel like we’re listening to an artist through the lens of commercial radio. We feel like we’re listening to a poet reading us his verse. There’s no shame, no fear, just a free spirited catharsis that we’re chasing after, and it’s as much a part of human nature as our desire to be loved by one another.
The best thing about the somewhat insular scene that he’s surfacing from is that Dallet’s virginal harmony is truly that – uncorrupted by external influence, and thus, the most authentic stuff we’ve got right now. With moving songs from his new extended play Abnormal Oddities like “Blind Love in Vain” and the jarringly real “Odd Ball Blues,” it’s understandable why the momentum surrounding his young career has picked up as much steam as fast as it has. “Blind Love in Vain” is a signature track – lyrically Dallet gets us right to the point and lets us fill in the blanks when he poses evocative imagery for us to ponder. And it would honestly be criminal for me to mention the incredible mastery of the harmonica that we’re treated to on his latest release, which are nothing short of sizzling (a word I usually reserve only for describing electric guitar solos and other amplified, overdriven tones). I can’t recall the last time that a texture so small and modest came out as noticeable on a record, but then again, I also can’t recall the last time I was describing a folk singer who wasn’t absorbed in a relevance debate. There’s no need to argue – Jeffrey Dallet is the real thing.