If you’ve been reading my reviews here on Lead us Down, you should be fully aware of my affinity towards Jon Gaunt’s EP splits. He’s been putting out a lot of them lately with bands like Greenland is Melting and Guerilla Grass, finally flexing his vocal, solo and front man muscles. I had the pleasure of discovering one of his more recent releases—an EP split with Joe Ginsberg.
This East Coast/West Coast collaboration heads a little more to the rock side than Gaunt’s previous splits, though still incorporating banjos, strumming guitars, and, of course, the fiddle. Although Gaunt provides his usual country/folky vibe on the songs on this EP, he strays from the bluegrass he’s most known for.
All you have to do is sing about the sea and I’m in. Joe Ginsberg starts out strong grabbing me right away with lyrics like, “My ship is drifting to your ocean, I could not stop it if I please,” in “Pointing West.” What sounds like a light-hearted, upbeat song continues, “Heading towards that same old shipwreck,” and we discover he’s being dragged by the currents back to the same waters he’s previously tried to leave.
Later, Gaunt’s cover of Lucero’s “Hold Fast,” tosses out lyrics about a ship’s sails that come crashing down as one loses grip on its ropes. “Hold fast cause you need her, to get to the calm of the bay.” Both songs paint pictures of the torrents life sometimes deals us. Both provide images of somewhat toxic relationships, whether it be with a woman, a lifestyle, or the sea. Their mastery of lyrics is evident here, painting beautiful pictures with song and voice.
Gaunt’s sad and sweet side appears most vividly on “When you Scream,” where he’s joined on vocals by Heather Tabor, of Teen Idols and Bullets to Broadway fame. Their voices seem a perfect complement to one another, Tabor’s adding a haunting sadness when she sings along with Gaunt, “Cause I hate it when you scream.” I picture something like Gram Parsons and Emmy Lou Harris on the brinks of their careers singing sweetly too each other—a musical relationship that was meant to be. I ran into Gaunt at a party just days after recording this song. He mentioned that he didn’t want to record another song without her—their voices proving to be a perfect match. I couldn’t agree more.
The album is like the ocean itself, pulling back and forth as the tide comes in. There are slow and fast songs, sad and happy songs, songs to clap and dance to, as well as songs to sit in silence to. It’s everything an album should be and it’s all packed into a tiny little six-song record.
As an indie publisher myself, I am impressed with Gaunt’s tenacity. He writes and records songs without a label. He doesn’t care about making the big bucks. The only thing that matters is the music and as long as Gaunt keeps putting out these awesome EPs, I’m going to be happy.
- Ale Gasso
Editor’s note: The vinyl 7” of this album contains four songs, two from Ginsberg and two from Gaunt, while the digital version, which can be purchased on Amazon contains one bonus track from each.