Jason Shain,
Sooner or Later
(Sleeveless, 2004)

"New York Country." That is the moniker Jason Shain uses to describe his music. In the promotional material I received with his second CD, Sooner or Later, he states "It's not folk music, it's not country music, it's not rock music. Its roots are based in country, but it comes from a city where rock is dominant."

If you asked me to describe what I hear on Sooner or Later, I would say it is folk-rock. Shain actually sounds a bit like Bob Dylan in that they both have a raspy, nasal, strained vocal style. The difference is that you can actually understand what Shain is singing about.

I am not a Dylan fan. (Please, no rocks, bottles or rotten produce thrown my way). The unintelligible, drawn out half-singing/half-whining thing grates on my nerves. Simply put, Shain had an uphill battle to win me over. Fortunately, after listening to Sooner or Later a few times, I can say it isn't bad. But the reason I like the CD is the band that backs Shain up.

The promo material points out that Shain is on a solo acoustic tour to support his latest CD. However, the CD was recorded with the help of a band called The Shade. Phill D'Ancona plays drums. Make Liddy is on bass and vocals. Dough Myers takes care of lead guitar and vocals. KG Ternes plays electric rhythm guitars, percussion and has a much better voice that Shain. I actually enjoy the moments where she and Shain harmonize together. I should mention that, besides the obvious lead vocals and acoustic guitars, Shain also plays the harmonica.

Once I got past my Dylan aversion, I was able to focus on the lyrics. All 10 songs on Sooner or Later were written by Shain. One that particularly grabbed my attention was "Promise Not to Tell," a song about four friends who become blood brothers. One of them commits suicide, and the remaining three each feel personally responsible. While the lyrics are sparse, not revealing much, they make a statement. My curiosity wonders if this story relates to something in Shain's past, or if it is just a song.

I am not going to rave about Sooner or Later. I do like this style of folk-rock, although I was surprised that it was associated with a singer-songwriter from New York. If you like the Dylan-essque singing style, then there might be something here for you. Shain has released Sooner or Later on his own label, Sleeveless Records. If you generally support independent artists, that might be another reason to check him out.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 13 November 2004

[ visit the artist's website ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.