Blues is the one music genre that Americans can truly claim as their own. We can say that we started rock ‘n roll, or that we pioneered rap, or that American tech has driven the development of electronic music, but blues is the corner of Americana in music that has seen the least influence from the outside world. At least until Bristol native Jamie N Commons came along.
Jamie Commons has soul. He’s probably never had grits (no, polenta doesn’t count), but boy does he have grit. Rumble and Sway has a wild west feel to it, from the jangling piano (pronounced ‘pie-an-uh’ in this context) on the title track to the dark scene painted by the lyrics of “The Preacher”. It isn’t tongue-in-cheek or a caricature of country music, however. He doesn’t have a deep-south drawl, but the sincerity and raw bluesiness of his vocals makes most modern male country singers sound about as tough as Taylor Swift. You have to give credit to a guy who wears a cowboy hat in the land of the queen without an ounce of irony.
There are funny influences throughout, including a grandiose Elton John-style piano-horns-chorus production on “Wash Me in the Water”, and he covers “Have a Little Faith in Me”. Of course no modern blusey artist could escape a comparison to Ray LaMontagne, and Commons is no exception, especially in the crooning vocal on “Caroline”.
There are modern touches too, though. The production value is very high. The phonograph crackling noise added in places does feel a bit gimmicky, but is a minor annoyance, and over driven bass lines are a symptom of current production trends. “Rumble and Sway”, in particular, has some electronic tricks in the form of stuttery noises that just beg for remixes. The EDM scene does not disappoint, “Rumble and Sway” Radioactivated by Imagine Dragons is a particularly good example.
Rumble and Sway is a really solid EP from someone with the potential to shake up the concept of blues in America and abroad. My biggest complaint is that Commons has been releasing other tracks, including “Lead Me Home” on The Walking Dead Soundtrack and “Devil In Me“, before releasing his EP. I just hope that means he is working hard in the studio, and that his first full-length album will be coming sooner rather than later. I give Rumble and Sway four out of five… songs that should have just been saved and used to make a full LP.
You can download “The Preacher” on jamiencommons.com, just make sure you provide a throwaway email address. Jamie N Commons is on Interscope, so you want to avoid getting spammed by Jimmy Iovine.