By Cody Mello-Klein
With their debut album Packed for Exile, the LA-based folk/country-rock group Jason Heath and the Greedy Souls ditches the sunny streets of LA and the vistas of California in favor of the sounds of the American south. However, the band saps the soul, the grit, and the flavor of the music from that area and instead churns out a relatively harmless and soulless debut album.
Catchy sing-along choruses are in abundance here, along with the guitar twang and chugging acoustic guitars typical of this genre of music. And while some of the country-tinged guitar solos of Jonothan Chi clearly show he is fleet of finger, the overall sound is something we have heard before. This goes for most of the album as well, for even the extra instrumentation, like the accordion and fiddle that is featured on many tracks, doesn’t bring anything new to this genre but instead recalls countless other bands. In fact, this band would be right at home playing during the mid to late 90’s when bands like Hootie and the Blowfish were bringing country-rock to the masses. Unfortunately, the band does not advance past that sound or add anything even remotely new to it.
My traditional complaints about average releases apply here as well, as the lyrics are not anything to write home about (excuse my pun) and many of the tracks sound the same except in a different key, however I have two glaring pieces of criticism that just turned this album from an “okay” or average-scoring album into a pretty annoying album. First of all, the vocals of Jason Heath are some of the most soulless and restrained vocals I have ever heard. Perhaps this is a result of the debut album jitters? His range is obviously lacking, as most of these tracks are sung in pretty much the same way but it’s just the overall absence of any real passion that bothers me the most. However, as much as Heath’s vocals annoyed me, my single biggest complaint about this album is something I mentioned earlier: no grit. Country and folk, not to mention rock, are notable and great styles of music because they are not afraid to embrace the dirty and imperfect side of life and people. However, this release clearly shies away from that side of the genre, as every track is clean as whistle.
Now, it may seem as though I hate this album, and to a degree I might, but I would not say that I despise the band or the album as a whole. This is only the first album from these guys and although it is underwhelming in many ways, I do see potential. Clearly they have the ability to dig into the grit of this style, as evidenced by the dirty mandolin and slide guitar of “Devil Ain’t Talkin,” however they played it relatively safe on this release. Here’s to hoping these guys find the soul that their name hints at, in the near future.