Jason Harwell
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Jason Harwell

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Harwell, a native of musical mecca Athens, GA, fills his debut CD with fun acoustic-driven folk/pop and intimately personal lyrics about the usual suspects - life, love, and everything in between. - Paste Magazine


In times of doubt, a well-meaning sermon or even "a good talking to" are often more annoying than encouraging. Sometimes it's enough to just listen to some "believers" (How's that for a non-threatening, nondenominational Christian code word?) sing about their experiences with dissatisfaction, imperfection and loneliness. A listener quite often takes great comfort from simply knowing that the songwriter swirling through the headphones or car speakers shares the faith with which he may be wrestling. Sometimes that's enough. For such listeners, as well as the solid-rock faithful, a trio of releases from "your friendly neighborhood nonprofit recording company" (a.k.a. Rebuilt Records) will be welcome additions to a record collection.

Rebuilt founder Jason Harwell finally returned to the studio himself to record some songs to follow up his brilliant 2004 Alive in the Fallalbum. The five-song The Broken Headphones EP is a logical and welcome continuation of the lyrical pop genius he showed on his full-length debut. Harwell's optimistic disposition, kind-hearted humor, masterful phrasing and likeable melodies beg the 18:56-minute question: "Awwww, is that all?" From the opening storytelling tune, "Afterfall," which document's Harwell's journey to create and sustain his nonprofit recording company, to the tender, daddy-by-your-side closing track, "Flowers (For Molly)," Harwell offers up a pleasing collection of top shelf songs. (Note: The Broken Headphones packaging deserves a shout-out too: a nearly clear disc printed with superb artwork folded into an eco-friendly brown paper containing the liner notes, all neatly tucked into an unbleached muslin wrap. Stunning.)

- The Phantom Tollbooth


Hearing that someone who’s a recording artist is also “President” of a label, particularly if it’s their own, twinned with the fact that they’re a committed Christian (not a crime in itself of course, but you wonder why it should matter…) immediately sends chills down your spine - except in the case of Jason Harwell that is – Rebuilt Records is a not-for-profit Athens, Georgia based venture for a start, his Christianity is very much of the quietly observed kind, and on top of all that, Harwell has recorded an at times phenomenally good album occupying some firm centre ground between the realms of americana and folk-pop.  A background of being a meat packer in Kansas City wouldn’t, you’d imagine, fill you with the richest vein of material as a songwriter, but Harwell writes such infectiously brawny songs that he could be singing about various brands of adhesive and you’d still get a kick out of it.  Steering away from the excesses of Christian AOR, he’s managed to produce an album with genuine diversity present, from the driving guitars and the ironic self betterment of “Wake Up” to the blues-twang of “Just Another Run of the Mill Day,” Harwell’s voice carries the songs one by one steadfastly into your train of thought, and never more so than with the joyful “Declaration Song” – evocative of a slightly faster paced version of Bill Mallonee’s by now almost legendary “Resplendent,” and with chord changes that surprise and thrill in equal turns, it’s an instant all time americana classic and, although the rest more or less matches up, it’s reason enough alone to buy this record.  - Americana UK


“So hold on my darlin’ it’s going to be bumpy,” warns Jason Harwell in “California,” the opening track of the musical diary that is “Alive in the Fall.” Transition, displacement, restlessness, desire, drudgery – Harwell uses the very stuff that beats a person down as the base course for a freshly paved highway toward a newly inspired life, laying down these brilliant songs as the center line for the listener to follow.

The impeccable production by The Glitter Twins (Gabriel Wilson and Solo from the Rock ‘N’ Roll Worship Circus) subtly nudges Harwell’s smart songwriting into the spotlight. The songs on “Alive in the Fall” unfold like a memorable coffee shop conversation with a longtime friend – a mix of bittersweet recollection, speculation about the future, and laughter about the sometimes-dreadful present: “I may not be the best bang for your buck / it’s all right / so what if I fall flat on my face? / a posterboy for the never
was (“Somewhere the sun”)”; “Three cups of coffee to the wind / and I can’t wait until this afternoon / You see that it’s not that I hate my job / I just wish I didn’t have to go (“Just another run-of-the-mill day”).” Every half-smile Harwell generates with his clever turn of a phrase is conversely matched with a deep stare of personal recognition: “I can’t say I love you / if there’s something I won’t do (“California”),” “I wished the Lord would take you home / I’m sad that wish came true (“A nice day for a blue suit”).”

With instantly likeable melodies and beautiful arrangements, Harwell’s songs feel fantastic – a favorite flannel of acoustic rock.

Recommended if you like Pete Yorn, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Elms, Coldplay, the softer side of Weezer. - the Phantom Tollbooth


Autumn leaves and a soft wind in your face is what you imagine as you listen to the effortless singing of Jason Harwell, who is backed by an acoustic sound reminiscent of Tom Petty and Jakob Dylan. Laced with lyrics encapsulating an ongoing search, Alive in the Fall is perfect in season and out. - Relevant Magazine


“Seven years ago I was a dead man – all speaking and breathing but completely void of life.” These are the first words in the booklet of Alive In The Fall, Jason Harwell’s second cd. Promising words; could there be another Tonight’s The Night in the making? But the story takes a different turn. The then eighteen year old son of a Georgia cattle farmer hears a voice: “The kind of voice that wakes the sleeping dead”. Whose voice it was is not stated, but I can only imagine one certain Someone who is capable of doing things like this. Usually hearing voices doesn’t amount to anything, but this case is different. For Harwell not only the aroma of the Autumn air and the colours of the Autumn leaves changed, but his whole life. He happily went in search of himself. Alive In The Fall is the intriguing report of his almost miraculous revival. A report like this could easily have become a sentimental, hard to swallow one. But exactly the opposite is what’s happening here: the album holds twelve songs in the pop, rock and folk vein, all with a touch of Americana, and each one of them sparkling with an honest joy for life. All sung with Harwell’s velvety voice, which is surrounded by loads of acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards. Impeccably produced by the Glimmer Twins: Gabriel Wilson and Solo from reli-rock band Rock ‘N’ Roll Worship Circus (which lately performed over here at the Flevo Festival). Without doubt the highlight of the album is the wonderful Declaration Song, which shows a relaxed whistling Harwell attacking the challenges of life: ”A chance to become what I am / The one ’til now I have not been / And though I fear these changing times / If I don’t seek I’ll never find”. He chooses to do this in his own way, as the rocking Color Outside The Lines states: “I’m not about to change what and who I am / Just to make a dime / I’ll color outside the lines”. In almost every song Harwell’s choice of words delivers something to remember. Like in the Stray Cats-like rocker Wake Up: “Life is not an autopilot that you can just set on cruise / If you want the answers / If you want the proof / You need to ask the questions”. Harwell didn’t only take a trip into his soul for this album. Together with his wife Jana he temporarily relocated to California to set up their own record label Rebuilt Records. The country flavoured California tells the story of this physical and emotional trip: “So hold on my darling, it’s going to be bumpy / So buckle in tightly, and go to California”. Jason Harwell is taking high risks by walking the small tightrope between fake Christian joy and honest authenticity. On Alive In The Fall he succeeds triumphantly. (Peer Bataille)

4 horses out of 5
- Alt.Country.NL


The lyrics alone constitute a sort of art. In them is the essence of a young man on the journey that is life. The gut-wrenching doubts and questions, the optimism of a youthful faith, and boldness with which he engages the world - they're all in there. And as Jason sings, every word rings remarkably true. Each of his songs is set to a tune that is original and catchy, each having an equal chance of repeating itself through your head as you go about your day. And on top of all this, there is such variety among the songs on this album that I find myself playing it all the time. No matter my mood or where I am, "Alive in the Fall" is just what I need. - Amazon.com


Discography

the broken.headphones.ep (2007)
JasonHarwell.com Presents: The Flavor of the Year, Volume Two (2006)
JasonHarwell.com Presents: The Flavor of the Year, Volume One (2005)
Alive in the Fall (2004)
Building a Better Me (2001)
Photo/Album (2001)

Photos

Bio

Though it seems singer/songwriters are everywhere these days, it is unlikely that many of them have competed nationally at Meat Judging and Evaluation. And though one may be tempted to guess none of them, Jason Harwell would be quick to correct you. He says, “I had reached the peak of my athletic abilities – sitting the bench and chasing foul balls in the parking lot – and thought that maybe it was time to seek greener pastures, so to speak.” Growing up on a cattle farm in rural Georgia, he need look no further than his local Future Farmers of America. Soon after, Jason found himself in a giant meat locker in Kansas City placing carcasses in order from best to worst. “It was a wonderful experience. Meat judging isn’t something you letter in, I suppose, but I got to wear a hard hat and miss a week of school. It’s not what most people do in high school, but it seemed to fit me,” Jason says.
Now 27, Jason has long since given up the glitz and glamour of meat judging for a career in music, and he continues to take the road less traveled. “I was finishing up a Masters Degree in Art Education at the University of Georgia and was all set to teach students about the joys of art. I had recently married, and teaching seemed the ‘smart thing to do’,” he says, “but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t truly living the kind of life I was intended to live. The more I thought about it, the more I had to find out what that feeling meant.”
This search for something more led Jason and his wife to pack up their belongings and move to the deserts of Southern California. A year later, Jason returned home with the Alive in the Fall album, a wide-reaching collection of alterna-folk songs incorporating shimmer-pop piano flourishes and alt-country washes of steel strings. Produced by the Glitter Twins, Alive painted a soundscape of a young man on the most important search of his life, with all the joys, fears, uncertainties, failures, and triumphs out in the open and in plain view. “With Alive in the Fall”, Jason says, ”the goal was to offer people something authentic, something real. I feel that’s my responsibility as a songwriter.”
Since it’s release in May of 2004, the album has gone on to receive glowing reviews, nationally and internationally. Alive received Relevant Magazine’s highest marks in the July/August 2004 issue and has been featured in Paste magazine, Southeast Performer, the British webzine Americana UK, Belgian zine Rootstime, and Dutch web magazine Alt.Country.NL. Greg Adams, a contributing writer for the Phantom Tollbooth, even placed the album at the top of his “Best of 2004” list – ahead of music giants U2 and the Cure.
The good fortune continued throughout 2005. Alive track “Just Another Run-of-the-Mill Day” placed as a finalist in the 2005 Independent Music Awards, while “Declaration Song” (labeled an “instant Americana classic” by Americana UK), was the overall grand prize winner in the 2005 International Acoustic Music Awards. Jason was the featured “Artist of the Week” on XM Radio Channel 52’s Radar Report in February and received nearly 100 spins on over 60 public radio stations nationwide. Mary Palmer, Music Director of High Plains Public Radio in Garden City, KS, personally contacted Jason to say that she was “immensely impressed and hopeful about the future of music in America.” That sentiment prompted Jason to embark upon his first self-booked national Truck Stops & Coffee Shops tour in September - a 20-date tour that took him from Georgia to California, stopping in Garden City for an on-air takeover of High Plains Public Radio’s High Plains Morning show.
“These accomplishments are nice things, but at the end of the day, success is whether the listener walks away with something meaningful to them, “he says, but adds with a quick smile, “But those nice things sure help grease the wheels with my inlaws…”