Tag Archives: Blue-eyed soul

Blue-Eyed Soul, Meaford Style

Review by Bill Monahan of “Diving In” by Jayden Grahlman

Jayden Grahlman has completed his new album of original tunes and is planning a release party in Owen Sound at Heartwood Concert Hall on June 28th.  The album should please anyone who invested through crowd funding to help make it a reality.  There is a real soul feel to the album, often bringing to mind Earth, Wind and Fire or K-OS.  Jayden’s experience playing with local funk band Higher Funktion has obviously influenced him.  Rich with danceable grooves and excellent playing, the album has a unique quality that seems to reflect its origins here in Meaford.  It can’t be called an urban sound, despite some impressive hip-hop passages, and maybe should be labelled (if a label is necessary) small-town funk, primarily because of the nature of the lyrical content.

The water theme is recurrent throughout the ten songs, reflecting the fact that it was conceived here beside the big lake.  And in place of the gritty, dark mood of much of urban music, there is a soaring sense of joy and love, a positive outlook that echoes the artist’s world view.  Angels appear in almost every song.

Jayden Grahlman is well respected as a guitarist who can play just about anything. He combines an impressive technical ability with a light touch and sensitivity as a player that makes any style he approaches his own.  This album is full of great instrumental passages, from the easy groove of the guitar that opens “You Got The Power”, reminiscent of J. J. Cale or Eric Clapton, to the fiery solo in “Magnet”.  There are also a few very impressive piano solos (sounding like the work of Tyler Yarema) that decorate the title track, “Diving In” and “Stars”.

Along with the individual standout instrumental solos, every song sits on a bed of beautifully arranged sounds.  The vocal harmonies throughout, some evocative percussive elements and, on “Give Thanks”, a seductive pedal steel, make for sweet listening.  Much of the credit for this is probably due to the production work of Craig Smith.  Two albums released in the past year, by Drew McIvor and Jon Zaslow, have that same quality, where layers of musical accompaniment are so subtly and sensitively arranged that they create moods that greatly elevate the original tunes, and they too featured Craig Smith at the console.

While instrumental virtuosity makes a great first impression, it takes more than that to make a timeless album.  The greatest albums always have a special way of reaching down into your inner being and becoming part of your own personal soundtrack.  They attach themselves to your favourite activities and they inspire you to feel deeply and believe in life.  This album has all of those qualities.

It’s easy to imagine the joy of listening to these songs while cruising through a hot summer night with the windows down, head bobbing and heart beating to the insinuating rhythms.  And it’s just as easy to imagine sitting back and sinking into the songs, opening your heart to the messages contained in the lyrics.  In a world that is increasingly harsh, cynical and disturbing, these songs provide a balm.

There are simple messages of love and an odd reflection on the life of a goldfish (it’s hard to tell if it is an extended metaphor or a rumination on what it must be like for a fish isolated in a fishbowl), but there are also songs that would nicely serve as daily confirmations for anyone looking to elevate their spirit.  In particular “You Got The Power” and “Give Thanks” remind you of the value of the life you hold in your hands.  And songs like “Angel” and “Magnet” remind you what love is really about.

Although Jayden delivers both his vocals and his rap segments with an impressive punch, his voice isn’t burdened with the mannerisms that are usually built in to songs with funky beats.  It’s a pure voice, echoing a sense of optimistic youth despite his mature mastery of the form.  That, too, adds to the album’s special quality.  And sprinkled throughout the songs there are other voices in the background, shouting out for joy or laughing.  It seems to reflect the community of supporters that helped make this project a reality.

This album works on so many levels it deserves to be a hit that resonates well beyond its small town origins. Meaford can be proud of this young talent.  He will go far.

The album release party for “Diving In”, featuring Jayden with a stellar band, happens June 28th at Heartwood Hall in Owen Sound.  Advance tickets are $25.