Jonah Tolchin
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Jonah Tolchin

Princeton, NJ | INDIE

Princeton, NJ | INDIE
Band Folk Americana

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"Gentlewoman Of The Road"

Jonah Tolchin may be relatively young in number of years wandering the planet, but his voice is one of an old soul, one that is deep and little bruised and weary, but a weariness that still keeps getting up and moving along those dusty roads, speaking the truth of all it's seen. Jonah has been gaining well deserved attention since the release of his album, Criminal Man, and his performance at the Newport Folk Music Festival this past summer.

Criminal Man, as a whole, is golden, but there are a couple songs that have found a place stuck in my head and have been blissfully dancing around up there on repeat.

Unless We Change
The first thing that pulled me into this song was the cadence of the music; it gives you the feeling of being of a train, maybe in an open boxcar, maybe in a passenger car, but most definitely rambling down the tracks, putting the past behind you and aching for the future ahead of you. I am also a sucker for call and response choruses and banjo solos, and tambourines. Trifecta!

But the message of the song is just as moving. Many will argue that the best love songs out there are the romantic boy meets girl love songs. But I disagree, the best love songs out there are revolutionary and protest songs, tunes that sing and shout that we love lives, our dreams, our world, our fellow human travelers enough that we won't let injustices and cruelty and indifference destroy them. We will (we must!) change and fight and work for the world that we, that all of us, want and deserve. That is love. And this is a love song.


Godforsaken World
If you know me well, you know that I don't throw around Woody Guthrie references all willy nilly, but the first time I heard 'Godforsaken World', I heard the whispers of Woody, quietly intertwined in the verses. Dates on the calendar may change and technology may change and the sheer amount of things we add bacon to may change, but the core of the human experience, that of figuring out how to survive our humanity, doesn't change, and really hasn't since the beginning of time. The good and true songwriters out there, and I am counting Jonah in that that group, can sing about all this strife that we call life, with a little glimmer in the eye, reminding us that at times our burdens may be heavy, but we don't need to be crush by them.

http://youtu.be/N9a7KwkzC0U

Jonah's music is available on bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon, and if you are a Daytrotter member you not only get a gold star for the day, but can also download his album length session for free. He also does a wonderful cover of Springsteen's 'State Trooper' on the tribute album, Long Distance Salvation, which I know you guys have already downloaded, since the talent on the album pretty much melts your face off. In a good way. - Katherine


"GrassClippings"

You know that Justin Bieber song with Nicki Minaj? Listen to that song and pretend like you don’t know who is singing. I picture a gorgeous young Beyonce-esque girl in some glittery, form fitting outfit…not the Biebs we all know.

In the world of Americana, there’s something somewhat similar that happens to me when I listen to Jonah Tolchin, but in a much, much better and less insulting, dehumanizing way. With Tolchin – the New England Americana teen badass (now 21) who has mesmerized audiences since he was 15 and drew damn fine crowds wherever he wandered at Newport this year – it’s not about gender or glitter…it’s about genre, age and experience. Sure, we see plenty of young bluegrass prodigies that blow our minds with fancy instrumentation at festivals, but there are few folks south of 25 that can nail Americana, blues and folk with impeccable instrumentation and songwriting the way Tolchin can. It’s as if he’s a 40 year-old lovechild of a Mississippi Delta blues man and Loretta Lynn…not the guy above.

Tolchin’s full length debut, Criminal Man (Amazon MP3 & Spotify), released in March, jumps from simple folk to alt-country to legit-Delta-blues without a miss. Songs like “Pitchfork, Torch & Pen” rock out with an A.A. Bondy feel, while songs like “Criminal Man,” “Rocks & Nails” and “Fracking Nightmare” fall somewhere between old time folk and Dylan. The album is one of my favorites for the year and this review is long overdue.

Tolchin, currently living in Olympia, WA, will play around the Pacific Northwest this month before jumping on a cross-country tour in December (see tour dates here). Here’s “Rocks & Nails,” my favorite from the album, which features background vocals by MorganEve Swain and David Lamb of Brown Bird.

http://youtu.be/r3zt3A2Xkp8 - Garland Harwood


"Daytrotter #1"

A few days before Jonah Tolchin arrived here in Rock Island, Illinois, he wrote me asking if he could literally pitch a tent in my backyard. He told me that he was asking because he was "broke as fuck." He ended up just staying in Chicago the night before, presumably with friends that would house him, so the burnt out backyard's grass and lumpy dirt beneath weren't needed for his bed, but the ask and the admission have been bouncing around in my head all night, as I've been listening to this session. Throughout, it's a collection of songs that is lined with this vulnerable quality of a man out in the world meaning to get by through sheer will and some of the goodness that can still be found in selective hearts.

Tolchin, as a broke as fuck man, comes to many thoughts the way that a hungry man savors a good burger, or simply a crispy apple that's been donated kindly into his paw. He looks at life in a way that anyone that at least has a pot to piss in might not. He looks at it more in gradients of color, in swatches of hues, where there are subtle, but incredible distinctions to be had rather than just commenting that something's red, the idea of money is green or that elephant in the room's gray. The young man, from Providence, Rhode Island, makes us see freedom for what it actually might mean and he's able to bring us face-to-face with unbelievably beautiful imagery - all of which were observed on a shoestring budget. It's enough to make us wonder if the constraints that we apply to our lives - of making money matter above and beyond most things, of working so much and so late - aren't the foolish things that we've ever done or worried about.

Tolchin's songs are concerned with death mostly - as the actual thing and disguised as other things - but the way he tackles it doesn't place much emphasis on worrying about when it's coming, but more what's being done before it arrives. It's the healthiest way to see it - prepared for it, ready to just wade into those waters when it's time, going under and never coming back out of them. He's mostly just pounding away on what it means to be a man, to be a gentle and compassionate man. To see things. To feel things. To stay up late at night considering the fragility of nearly everything and gasping when it all comes into proper focus, as it always does.

It's a mere blink before it's all extinguished, before the sins, before the nickels, the dimes, the dollars, the accomplishments, the pillows, the rocks, the hard places, the elixirs, the brown and the clear drinks, the mechanical stars, the valleys and rivers are just nothingness. He can't help but feel this every day, this poor young man who has everything. Any man who sings a line like, "Well the sun shines through my window/The leaves are green and fair/I'm just lookin' for a color/Only found in my baby's hair," you can be sure, has everything. - Sean Moeller


"Music Savage"

I’ve been listening quite a bit to a musician by the name of Jonah Tolchin, a 19 year old kid that sings songs that are at times quite dazzling. I mention his age because you just won’t guess it. He sings with the soul of a man 3 times his age. Part of the allure comes from his rather deep voice, its a bit grizzly, rough and almost whiskey soaked. The sorrowful, raspy vocals layered upon a minimalistic plucking of his guitar create a really intimate vibe. Tolchin’s sound blends the sounds of folk, blues, bluegrass and Americana across his record (Criminal Man) where he was joined by Music Savage favorites like Brown Bird, Joe Fletcher & members of The Low Anthem (it must nice to have such great friends). I urge you to buy his album, Criminal Man. - Kyle


"A Glasgow view of Americana and related music and writings (Blabber N' Smoke)"

Finally we go back to New Jersey to find Jonah Tolchin, a youngster of 19 who sounds a lot older and delivers some spinechilling spare songs along with a few more muscular diatribes including a cover of a Blaze Foley song. The opening track here is a wonderfully glacial song with Tolchin on guitar and voice accompanied only by a cello and immediately the listener is captured by the beauty and simplicity here.Godforsaken World expands the sound adding fiddle and bass but is similar in delivery. This melancholic feel resurfaces on Fracking Nightmare where Tolchin addresses the environmental issues of this new and potentially destructive method of robbing the planet. A musical saw adds to the sense of foreboding on what is a fine protest song. Wrong Side of the Wire which follows is another environmental lament with a simple delivery. Tolchin’s fine voice and guitar is supported by pedal steel from Ed Iarusso on a song that could stand proudly beside the best that Woody Guthrie could conjure up. Strangely enough one of the backing vocalists here is the selfsame Joe Fletcher mentioned above, small world indeed. Fletcher sings again on the Foley cover, Oval Room which gets a jauntier delivery and reminds one of the Reagan years. Tolchin leaves the politics behind to an extent on the final song, Rocks and Nails, a wonderful ballad that seems to describe a suicide on a railroad line, evocative and chilling it serves to deliver notice that Tolchin is one to watch. - Paul Kerr


"Blogspot UK"

The surfeit of what used to be called singer-songwriters and the opportunities offered by social media and the internet for men with guitars to put their music out has meant that it's a competitive environment out there. But there is an unappeased appetite
in the UK, for raw, confessional Americana and those smart enough to come up with songs and a sound that sets them apart.

Thanks to the immediacy of Twitter (@natlyon) I was alerted to Jonah Tolchin and his album 'Criminal Man'. The opening finger-picked chords of 'Without A Sound' are nothing special but the first words "All my heroes and my idols, my friendships and my ghosts, leave me stranded here this morning, too close away from home" immediately sucked me into an intelligent mind at work. A few lines later - "The car is filled with
reasons to never get back in, I was once a stronger man till I confessed to all my sins".

These are great lyrics, made even more remarkable that the writer of them is just 19 years old. People have walked this earth for many decades without being able to summon up the intelligent ambiguity contained in them. The album develops these themes of honesty and personal responsibility in a voice which is resonant of a deep American music tradition. The playing is ambitiously simple, raw in places but confident in its naked soul-searching. There are some daring sonic
departures - 'Fracking Nightmare' deploys the saw to wonderfully off-centre effect. The track 'Unless We Change' is as far removed from the self-pitying strains of traditional country music as you can get, it's a positive statement that we can create what we choose to apply our minds to - exactly the process Tolchin himself is engaged in.

Is this so called 'outlaw country'? Certainly Johnny Cash would have endorsed the dark human thoughts that stir in amongst the thirst for being alive and the damaged characters that inhabit the songs. 'This album is dedicated to change' it says on the tin and I can only begin to wonder at the future forks in the road we're set to take with this
very rare talent.
- Steve Swift


"Visible Voice Review"

Jonah Tolchin sings in a world weary, grizzled drawl, spinning tales of injustice, inequity, loss and strife. But at just 21 years old, these are not songs of a tired, beaten- down man. Far from it. Tolchin sings with the passion and wide-eyed optimism that a song can change the world. Like protest singers that came before, he builds his songs around a core message, but makes the characters and the stories universal and timeless.

Like the best folk and blues, these are songs that feel as though they have always existed, but were only just pulled out of the ether. You've heard much of this before - it's Guthrie, Seeger, Nebraska and Steve Earle - but it's fresh when there's true passion, and Tolchin certainly has that. From folk and blues to country and bluegrass, the album covers quite a bit of stylistic ground, making for an easy listen. It's the kind of record you get lost in and find yourself spinning it over and over again. It's a bit of an anachronism for a 21 year old to write from a place of hardened wisdom and maturity, but Tolchin does it well - the mark of a great songwriter. - Scott Pingeton


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

Uncut said he "demonstrates the finesse and maturity of someone like Jason Isbell," and Mojo praised him for "adding raw, punk brio to a folk-blues template." Tolchin racked up more than three million plays on Spotify with tracks from the record and toured the US and Europe extensively in support of it, sharing bills with artists like Chuck Prophet, Dave and Phil Alvin, Gregg Allman, Joseph Arthur, and more along the way. When he wasn't on the road, Tolchin was busy showing off his talents behind the board as a producer, heading to Nashville's Bomb Shelter to helm an album for Bill Scorzari and bringing bluesy soul singer Julie Rhodes to record at FAME, where he made such a powerful connection with engineer John Gifford III that he knew he had to return there for 'Thousand Mile Night.' 

"This is an aching, intimate anthem that resonates with every journeyman or woman who's longing for home, real or imagined, inside or out." -- Roseanne Cash

“... A promising new artist who artfully occupies the gulf between old-school tradition and contemporary appropriation.”

- Kim Ruehl, NPR Heavy Rotation



JONAH TOLCHIN

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MUSIC:


* Clover Lane (Yep Roc - 2014): http://snd.sc/XHFiEq


* Five Dollar EP (2013): http://snd.sc/16UMwJX -- (quote on the EP)


LIVE VIDEO: 


Diamond Mind

Waitin' Round to Die

Completely 

 www.jonahtolchin.com for full bio and more info....