In his debut with Chicago-based company Bloodshot Records, Jason Hawk Harris’ “Love and the Dark” portrays a tale of worldly strife and personal vices. Released August 23, “Love and the Dark” is an amalgamation of classic rock, country, and folk. This album features artists such as Rachel Baiman, Nashville Americana songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, and Natalie Nicoles, a member of the band, Branches. According to Bloodshot Record’s literature, “Love and the Dark” is a personal narrative on death, struggle, and addiction.
Introduced to country music at a young age by his grandfather, Harris has always been enamored with music and is inspired by the glamour of Queen. Harris eventually became involved in classical composition and was wait-listed for the master’s program at UCLA. While on tour with The Show Ponies, however, Harris began writing his own songs inspired by his country roots through incorporating elements of his beloved classical and rock ‘n’ roll skills into his music.
While writing this album, Harris faced familial hardship and his own vices, such as losing his mother and dealing with his alcoholism. “Love and the Dark” is a reconstruction of Harris’ experiences with death and his own method of working through strife. Like many artists, Harris uses his music as a vehicle to manage grief and misfortune, therefore creating an atmosphere for the audience to see the vulnerable side of Harris’ experiences with hardship.
In his song “Phantom Limb,” Harris relives his emotions surrounding his mother’s funeral. He creates an analogy within this song by comparing his mother’s death to a phantom limb; he feels her presence but knows she is no longer with him. Harris mourns the loss of his mother and seeks to regain her presence in his life. Interestingly, this song’s third and final verse is interrupted by a hauntingly beautiful guitar solo. By utilizing a guitar solo to conclude the song, Harris attempts to protect himself from the reality of his mother’s death. By leaving the third verse unfinished, Harris leaves himself vulnerable to the judgment of his listeners, creating a bond between Harris and his audience. “Phantom Limb” will impress listeners with its powerful despair and its ability to bring forth emotion through its instrumental conclusion.
In contrast to “Phantom Limb,” Harris’ “Giving up” is a cheerful tune in G major which portrays Harris’ battle with alcoholism. Despite the upbeat instrumental, Harris expresses the anguish both he and his wife feel about his addiction. His lyrics portray his helplessness, along with describing his usage of alcohol as a coping mechanism. Upon an initial listen, “Giving up” appears to be a lighthearted song, yet Harris hides meaningful lyrics behind a joyful melody. He writes of his insecurities of his wife leaving him due to his alcoholism. Although the song may appear lighthearted from an initial listen, Harris’ “Giving up” tells the tale of a man stuck in a constant cycle of alcoholism and its effects upon his relationship with his wife.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, “Confused” is a tune about rushing into love. In this song dedicated to his wife, Harris joyfully recounts the warnings he received once he planned his engagement. This jovial tune highlights the young-and-dumb aspects of falling in love. It will please listeners with a heartfelt message on the importance of believing in love, no matter how rushed it may seem. Despite the caution of others, Harris recognizes the importance of acting in the present moment instead of waiting for a sense of security. He emphasizes the importance of his impulsive behavior and clearly does not regret rushing into a marriage. Listeners will appreciate the song’s playful lyrics along with Harris’ clear devotion to his wife. “Confused” is a charming song that will delight listeners with its lighthearted energy and upbeat instrumentals.
Throughout this album Harris concludes many of his songs with instrumentals instead of lyrics. In “Grandfather,” Harris finishes the song with an extended, lyricless conclusion that leaves the song feeling unresolved. Instead of continuing to discuss seeing his mother in the afterlife, Harris chooses to conclude the song with instrumentals which leave listeners desiring a proper conclusion to the song. Although the melody is harmonious, it does not replace the audience’s longing for a proper ending.
“Love and the Dark” is an entrance into the mind of a man who has overcome significant hardship throughout his life. Laced with beautiful harmonies and mellifluous guitar solos, this album encompasses a myriad of emotions ranging from heartache to infatuation. Surprisingly, Harris has already created a connection between his listeners and his experiences. His music leaves him completely vulnerable to listeners and their judgment. “Love and the Dark” has created an atmosphere of mutual trust between Harris and his audience, successfully allowing his music to appeal to a broader range of people.
Through his appeal to the audience’s empathy, Harris has composed an album that leaves the listener wanting more. His songs embody the human experience of overcoming hardship despite the difficulties one may face. “Love and the Dark” can be described as an anthem for those overwhelmed by the weight of this world. Overall, Harris has gifted his listeners with an album that is representative of the human ability to overcome and endure. “Love and the Dark” is surely an anthem created for those desiring hope throughout the hardship. Harris has produced an album which grants his listeners the opportunity to see the vulnerable side of his personality, successfully forming a relationship between Harris and his listeners.