JEREMY BASS | THE GREATEST FIRE | JUNGLE STRUT MUSIC | JAN. 19th, 2018
The most striking thing about the upcoming new album by Brooklyn-based artist Jeremy Bass is his adept and powerful lyrics.
The Greatest Fire (Jan 19th, 2018, Jungle Strut Music) contains numerous turns of phrase that are completely world-class, impressive for any emerging songwriter, but the rub here is that Bass actually makes his bones as a classical guitarist.
Bass has logged countless hours mastering the instrument that he was originally trained on in Italy and Spain, and his ascension as a composer ultimately led to The Secret City, the arts organization for which Bass serves as musical director, receiving an Obie Award – off-Broadway theater’s highest honor.
It’s not as if a songwriter whose career focus has been on playing shouldn’t be able to do it all – Bass has already proven himself as a lyricist with award-winning work for the stylistically diverse pair of EPs he released in 2015 that earned him nods from the John Lennon Songwriting Competition and UK Songwriting Contest – but with The Greatest Fire, he has made a masterpiece.
“I wanted this album to be an expression of everything I was capable of, to feature the best songwriting I’ve done to date and to let rock n’ roll shine through the more diverse influences of my previous records,” Bass says.
To that end, while Bass’ voice can be described as a mixture of Paul Simon, Jeff Buckley, and Thom Yorke, you’re now as likely to find walls of distorted guitars and stacked keyboards in his arsenal as you are to find a blend of banjo, ukulele, acoustic guitars and mandolin.
And while his sound bears little resemblance to one of his heroes, Bass relates wholeheartedly to this Tom Waits quote: “I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.”
The songs on The Greatest Fire take this idea as gospel, both in ideology and practice.
“Now don’t you ever feel there’s a truth that’s deeper than your point of view,” Bass sings on the album’s title track, asking one of those questions that most are reluctant, even scared, to hear. It’s a confrontation that takes place over an endlessly catchy synth line framing an anthemic chorus that sounds like the epitome of hope, but is really about facing your darkest fears.
“I thrive on the interplay between what people think they’re hearing, and the actual content beneath,” Bass explains. “I think that’s where the best songwriting happens.” Bass mentions Hank Williams and Merle Haggard’s outlaw output as examples of this juxtaposition.
A more contemporary songwriter who was a master at this, as well, was Elliott Smith. Fittingly, Bass recorded much of The Greatest Fire with Nick Luca (who has toured and recorded with Calexico and Iron and Wine) at New Monkey Studios in Los Angeles, Smith’s last musical home prior to his untimely passing.
In fact, The Greatest Fire’s “Trees For The Forest” opens with a short picking run that immediately brings to mind the opening of Smith’s Either/Or classic track “Angeles,” and contains a lyric that could have come from Smith’s canon: “But you know those people who never get lost, never learn how to find their own way,” a fine example of Bass’ ability to lay it on the line, as if playing some kind of musical rope-a-dope by weakening his audience with pretty sounds before landing a truth punch.
Bass also recorded at Wave Lab Studios in Tucson, AZ where he was joined on these recordings by Jon Rauhouse who tours and records with Neko Case, Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa, Jacob Valenzuela of Calexico, and Joel Graves of Everest, among others.
The interplay shows up again on “(So Glad) Everyone’s Happy,” where a bouncy, surf-rock guitar lick is juxtaposed against a story of struggling with addiction. “I’m sick and tired of sitting ‘round waiting to see what all this waiting is for,” Bass sings. It’s a genius line that turns self-awareness upside-down.
Bass takes this “genius” reference with humility.
“What I really wanted to do was write the best songs I was capable of writing, to deliver the best performance possible, and to make the best album I was capable of making.”
The Greatest Fire, the new album by Jeremy Bass is scheduled for release on January 19th, 2018 via Jungle Strut Music.
- 2/18/2018: New York, NY @ Rockwood Music Hall (9PM)
- 2/16/2018: Classically-trained guitarist Jeremy Bass joined in studio by players with Iron and Wine, Neko Case, Calexico for “The Greatest Fire,” out now.
- 1/8/2018: Brooklyn-based songwriter Jeremy Bass preps “The Greatest Fire” featuring players with Iron and Wine, Neko Case, Calexico, DeVotchKa.
- 12/1/2017: Brooklyn-based, classically-trained guitarist, Jeremy Bass to follow-up pair of critically praised 2015 EPs with lyrically-driven “The Greatest Fire.”
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