Jason Eady's inspired new album Daylight and Dark embraces multiple styles of die-hard country music to weave together 11 songs about the deep, messy details of love and life. The disc is sequenced to follow the arc of one man's journey through the complexities of the heart. But the semi-autobiographical Daylight and Dark is not a concept album. Instead, it's a powerful study in honesty; a collection of real stories populated by real characters that coalesced around Eady's title track.
"The moment I came up with the first verse and chorus of 'Daylight and Dark' was a breakthrough," Eady relates. "I understood that what I wanted to convey in the album is that life is not simple. Most songs don't do that. They're either happy or sad. But life doesn't work that way. Most of the time we live somewhere in between. And that place is between the daylight and the dark."
It took roughly three months for Eady to write and begin recording these songs that he describes as "going beyond the surface and digging into the little cracks in our lives, our dreams and our desires - the things that keep us from connecting, that we all have to deal with, all the time."
Eady's sixth release is the follow-up to 2012's AM Country Heaven, an artistic and commercial breakthrough that cracked the Top 40 on Billboard's Country Albums chart, boasting an old-school honky-tonk sound and a complete lack of artifice.
"One of the things that Kevin Welch" - who produced both discs - "taught me is that believability is number one," Eady declares. "The things I'm writing about have to seem true and the words being said need to sound like they'd really come out of my mouth."
Daylight and Dark's high-powered barroom ballads "OK Whiskey" and "We Might Just Miss Each Other" offer a direct connection to the honky-tonk spirit of AM Country Heaven. But tunes like "Other Side of Abilene" have gentler, textured arrangements, crafted by carefully layered fiddle and electric, acoustic and pedal steel guitars that are more reflective of the album's overall sound. Also, "Late Night Diner" and the title cut echo the narrative style of great singers like Vern Gosdin and Don Williams, whose recordings, like Eady's, blend a novelist's eye for detail with the welcoming voice of a natural storyteller.
"Their approach and the roadhouse style of artists like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens are both part of my
DNA," Eady relates. "I hope that really comes across on Daylight and Dark and makes it a deeper country music album overall."
The new disc is Eady's third collaboration with Welch. Their first was 2009's When the Money's All Gone.
"Kevin is more on the same page with me than anybody else," Eady says of his songwriting, performing and Americana Music Association award-winning Texas compatriot. "He is fantastic at getting the songs into the best shape before we record them and choosing the right band for the studio, so that by the time we start recording 90-percent of the important work is done."
When Eady and Welch were making AM Country Heaven, it was initially intended as a side project that wouldn't be released under Eady's name. But the sterling results dictated otherwise, and made the album a game-changer. The disc's swaggering palette and adult approach to timeless topics like love, loss and yearning helped Eady find a new, larger audience whose members now welcome him wherever he travels.
Daylight and Dark was cut just outside of Nashville at engineer George Bradfute's Tone Chaparral studio with a superb team of players. They included Americana award winning multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin on pedal steel and fiddle, guitarist Richard Bennett (who's worked with a diverse array of artists from Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris to Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond), drummer John Gardner (Jim Lauderdale, Don Williams, Dixie Chicks) and bassist Steve Mackey (Dolly Parton, Delbert McClinton).
Although country music was Eady's first love, he was exposed to the musical stew of the lower Delta - blues, soul,R&B and primal swamp rock - while growing up in Jackson, Mississippi. Eady was performing in local bars by the time he was 14, singing and playing guitar. He began writing his own songs, but the live music culture in the Magnolia State was geared to hits and classics rather than original music.
Eady moved to Nashville to seek a record deal, but he became disillusioned and headed back to Mississippi,joining the Air Force on the way home. "Becoming a translator in the Air Force helped me be a better songwriter," Eady says. "I got a much broader view of the world and of other cultures, which helped me see things from a better perspective." After the military Eady got a job in a Fort Worth bank's IT department, and he began attending open mic nights to blow off steam. Soon he developed a following.
"I was surprised to learn that Texas was exactly the opposite of Mississippi," he says. "If you played too many cover songs the audience would get restless. They wanted original music." That encouraged Eady to step up his songwriting and step away from his day job, never to return.
Eady says his first two albums, 2005's From Underneath the Old and 2007's Wild Eyed Serenade, "were about trying to zero in on what I wanted to do. They had singer-songwriter, country, southern rock and other kinds of songs. I had no idea about production or how to work in the studio. I was all over the map. Things really clicked when I started working with Kevin. He helped me focus on the music I heard growing up in Mississippi, but as a way of discovering more about who I was as an artist.
"With AM County Heaven and now Daylight and Dark, I've learned to stop second guessing," Eady declares.
"Now I understand that I'm a country artist. That's the music I love, and that's what I always want to be."