I’ll never forget the words passed on to me by my grandmother on her death bed. She said, “Tom, singer-songwriters are everywhere. And most of them, well quite frankly, they suck. They can’t play guitar, they can’t sing, and they think their substandard middle-class white male struggle makes for compelling poetry. But when you come across a good one, hold onto him.” So forgive me, everyone, if I came into the Reid Jamieson experience a little wary. After all, his biography does make a point of mentioning his love of positive thinking and how he lives with no TV and a lot of plants. But although I pressed play with fists clenched, ready to throw critical hooks and jabs towards the pleasant-looking Canadian’s way, my fingers uncurled immediately thereafter.
The Unavoidable Truth, written and recorded in Jamieson’s hometown Toronto, pulls from a wide array of singer-songwriters but smartly chooses only the best to inspire this set. Jamieson’s got a ton of talent—a great voice, a knack for classic arrangements, and enough chops to put even Ric Flair to shame. On the softer numbers, his voice rises to a brassy alto that is reminiscent of Sondre Lerche. Although he falls short of the most lofty comparison made, between him and Jeff Buckley, he bears the same emotive tendencies and inflections that Buckley inspired lovers with, and Jamieson carries an equally romantic sensibility. He deftly manipulates traditionally rootsy folk with a sentimentality that most songwriters of his ilk tend to overdose on. One minute he’s pulling an Hour of the Bewilderbeast impression, the next he’s copping Glenn Tillbrook’s mojo. When he’s not channeling the ghost of the Old 97’s, such as “Grass & Dirt” (mp3), he’s honing his Bacharachian arrangements; blending vintage piano, stately trumpets and a beautifully melancholic pedal steel guitar (courtesy of ex-Wilco member Bob Egan) into “Another Kind of Man” and “End of the World Small Talk.” All of these fragments of songwriters past and present, yet The Unavoidable Truth is so strong compositionally that it avoids being derivative and uninspired.
Having lost his mother to cancer in his early teens and finding music as the only outlet for escape from his loss, Jamieson honed his craft knowing nothing but to lay his heart on the line. This expository method of playing and songwriting has brought The Unavoidable Truth to a passionate end-product. The album’s title itself harkens upon a sense of lost hope and resignation, and you can hear the negativity rise like heat from the confines of Jamieson’s mind. Ridding himself of these demons, be it the memory of his lost mother or a battle with sense-of-self, Jamieson is as therapeutic for the listener as for himself. The Unavoidable Truth showcases a talented and tender young artist with seemingly limitless potential and a total package that screams mainstream accessibility without losing credibility. Take that, John Mayer.