Chords of Truth is the band name of solo musician Jason Garriotte. Though he intends to expand his musical project and incorporate new musicians into the mix in the future, his most recent release titled Reflections of Reality is an EP compiling his best tracks. On this album, he plays acoustic guitar using basic chords, strumming patterns and fingerpicking styles with lyrics that stretch the imagination. Major influences for his music include artists like Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, and Johnny Cash. Be sure to keep these artists in mind as you begin to listen to his music as well, as his style of music, which frequently blends folk rock with rockabilly styled guitar and vocals, is really well done and far exceeded my original expectations for his musical work. Jason's primary goal is to create music that helps change the way people look at the world around them, and hopefully allow them to see things in a new light as well. From this rather abstract thematic starting point, Chords of Truth was developed and the release Reflections of Reality was quite literally made a reality!
The sound of Reflections of Reality is actually a great middle ground between indie styled recordings and professional sounding recordings you would expect from a top of the line recording studio. For this style of acoustic driven music, it fits the mood and atmosphere that Chords of Truth seems implicit on depicting. Given that this EP is stripped down almost exclusively to vocals and acoustic guitar (both strummed chords and fingerpicking), there is not much to say with regards to the production other then it is very well done and will likely not bother anyone who is a fan of this style of music. As a result of this fact, Chords of Truth produces music that appears to be very friendly for both radio play and intimate live shows as well. With this in mind, I cannot help but feel that Chords of Truth is a blend of Death Cab for a Cutie (on their acoustic tracks like "I Will Follow You Into the Dark") and a variety of Celtic folk acts which often make their way onto the radio waves. On the opening track "Tune Your Mind" a piano creeps in behind the strummed acoustic chords to add a little bit of variety to the tracks on this EP as well.
COMPOSITION AND INSTRUMENTATION:
The music on this album is typically very basic in it's musical structure, and the instrumentation (again, almost solely dependent on the acoustic guitar) is equally minimal. With that said, acoustic music of this style is thoroughly enjoyed worldwide. It is very easy to get into, and more importantly focuses on vocals and lyrics as opposed to simply the musical compositions. The unfortunate result of having tracks all similar in style is not having one that particularly sticks out for it's instrumental merits. While listening to the Reflections of Reality EP I was met with pleasure as a listener, but as a musician I am longing to hear what Chords of Truth can produce with the sound of a full band. While listening, I easily imagined some clean guitar (with light delay and reverb effects), more piano, and even an organ or some light string arrangements as well (such as a violin). I personally hope that future tracks will incorporate a wider range of instruments, and ultimately make more sense of this acoustic EP in the context of a more instrumentally diverse album catalogue.
One important aspect to consider in this critique is that it is ultimately not a critique of this album at all. I love this album for it's acoustic sounds and minimalism, it is just a personal preference that I would love to hear these tracks done by a full band as well. Jason's music still makes sense as he works as a singer-songwriter, playing gigs in bars and other small venues as well. Compositionally, three tracks on this EP stand out to me the most. The track "Tune Your Mind" stands out because it incorporates piano behind the great chord progression, "When I Was Wasted" because the tempo seems to slow down significantly (which adds to the sense of melancholy longing this song seems to want to depict), and finally the closing track titled "What Life is About" which features fingerpicked acoustic guitar. These small shifts in instrumental style provides some changes in pace to make every track on this album easy to get into. This ultimately leads right into the next section of this review, which is perhaps going to be the most important one with regards to touching on what Chords of Truth's music is really about.
VOCALS AND LYRICS:
The highlight of Chords of Truth's debut EP is undoubtedly the vocals and lyrics. There is no way around it in my mind. The vocals ultimately dominate the seven tracks on this album, with a voice that is both tender and masculine, reminiscent of famous voices like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, as well as Celtic styled vocals in general. This makes for an interesting and altogether unique sound projected over the music. In addition to this, on the whole I found the vocal melodies to be exceptional. They are certainly styled in the folk tradition, but they are very diverse and ultimately make every track on this album noteworthy. Lyrically, as stated earlier, Chords of Truth is a singer-songwriter project which seems to suggest an importance of the lyrical poetry (as well as the vocals). In the opening track he passionately sings words like this:
Our thoughts create our world
Contrary to what you may have heard
Your mind’s power is so strong
Just by thinking you will affect the outcome
So much of the lyrical writing on this album stands out, and I personally find it very important that musicians see the importance in writing lyrics that are beautifully and poetically interesting. Too often on the radio and in the mainstream can we hear lyrics that are stripped down to near stupidity that it becomes a pleasure to be able to hear words such as those conveyed by Chords of Truth. He of course follows in a tradition of musicians that were well known for their lyrics as well, such as Bob Dylan. I would highly suggest taking some time to read through the lyrics he has written for his tracks, which he includes on the music page of his website.
Chords of Truth's EP Reflections of Reality is a very interesting listen. The music has a sort of romantic passion, and is dominated by well done lyrics and vocals. While the compositions may leave me (as a musician) slightly disinterested, the few flaws I can find with this album are on the whole minimized by the atmosphere conveyed within these tracks. If you are a fan of acoustic, folk, minimalism, or even light rock you will certainly find something to thoroughly enjoy in the work of Jason Garriotte. This EP would definitely rank higher in my mind if there was another release that provided more in terms of instrumentation (incorporating electric guitars, organs, violins, etc. and lead instrumentation). With that said, for what it is, the Reflections of Reality EP is undoubtedly a very enjoyable album to listen too. If I am to judge the album on what it makes me feel, then I must say that this album has made me feel a blend of emotions (from melancholy to a strange sense of happiness on the track "Soda or Pop"). Poetically, the words behind these tracks are thought provoking as well.
So, ultimately, should you listen to Chords of Truth's new EP? Yes, without a doubt you should check it out. As it is, I would give this album a 7.5/10 primarily because of how effective the vocals are, how easily this music would translate into a live bar/cafe setting, and in part because of the throwback to folk music that I so often enjoy. With some more complex compositions and instrumentation on future material, I could easily imagine the music of Chords of Truth hitting airwaves and potentially even taking the world by storm.
Let me conclude this review with one of Jason's favorite quotes: "A mind, once stretched by a new idea, can never regain it's original shape."
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:
Chords of Truth Website
Chords of Truth Stream/Lyric Page
Be sure to check out these links! The Reflections of Reality EP will be officially released January 2, 2012.