“If you want to know what gets me through my day…”
With that opening line, Jason White invites us in and sets the confident tone of his latest release The Longing.
What gets White, and by extension, the characters that inhabit his rich song vignettes, through their days, is a desire for something beyond the current limits of their lives. They hunger after what’s beautiful, what’s real, and often, what’s nameless and unattainable. They dream of new beginnings. They struggle for answers. They reach for love and fall short, but never quite give up.
The Longing is a stunning 10-song cycle that explores the longings and vagaries of the human heart. It begins with the gospel-tinged “For The Freeway Home” and the jaunty, loping title track, continues through the cinematic “Waitress” and Tin Pan Alley-like valentine “Perfect Stranger,” then winds down with the French-flavored “Belle Histoire d’Amour” and the breezy but black humor of “California.” With White’s strong acoustic guitar work and honey-on-sandpaper voice front and center, the collection offers up a melodic warmth that recalls 70s-era FM radio titans Elton John, Bread and The Eagles, while still sounding contemporary and completely fresh.
And there’s an edge to the softness, a confidence and authority that comes from White’s years of hard-won experience as both an artist and an award-winning songwriter. Born and raised in Cleveland, Jason White started playing guitar when he was seven. By the time he was in junior high, he was writing songs and gigging out with bands. His musical apprenticeship was as colorful as it was dramatic. Cross country touring in a van, an appearance on Star Search, the loss of a musical collaborator to suicide, a record deal turned sour, crooked management, and even a stint living Thoreau-style in a woodsy cabin.
Along the way, he released two critically acclaimed albums, Shades of Gray and Tonight’s Top Story. The first yielded a song that would change his life. In 2003, when a Nashville song plugger heard “Red Ragtop” on a local radio station, he brought it to Tim McGraw, who took it to #2 on the country charts. A moving tale of young love, its mention of abortion got it banned on several major stations and stirred up controversy in the national press. All of which helped White’s stock as a songwriter rise on Music Row.
As White prepares to hit the road in support of the album, he is cautiously optimistic about connecting with an audience in an overcrowded marketplace. “These days, everybody is so inundated with entertainment information, but most of it feels to me like it’s mass-produced. Even if you dig through the layers and there’s a real artist in there somewhere, it’s hard to tell. You hear vocals that have been Pro Tooled to death, songs that sound like they come from a machine. So what I hope is that people can listen to this record and hear that it’s homespun. That the songs were written very carefully and come from a sincere place, and the process was very organic and genuine.”