Album Review: Jamestown Revival, ‘San Isabel’

As the world races through the present toward a future fueled by technological advances that will, allegedly, make our lives simpler, some people are taking the opposite tack, eschewing technology for simpler ways in order to enjoy their lives in the present. It’s a harkening back to the era when less really was more, and it applies to growing food, building community, making music, and more.

With their latest release, San Isabel, Jamestown Revival has gone back to the very basics of their band — the vocal harmony play between Jonathan Clay’s soothing baritone and Zach Chance’s lilting tenor — and built up from there. Recorded in a remote, central Colorado cabin, the album’s production process matched their writing process in centering “being” in the moment, every moment.

They waste no time getting to the point, either. Driven by a banjo drone and muted drums, the absolutely addictive “Crazy World (Judgement Day)” warns of “megaphone marauders” and “Tin Pan Alley tomcats” pulling a fast one leaving the narrator to wonder whether judgement day should maybe come to pass already. After all, life is hard enough without having to deal with a bunch of “terrorizing, no-good group of criticizing fools.” It, and most of the album, also wouldn’t feel at all out of place on late ’60s radio between CSN and Bob Dylan, thanks to both its lyrical content and folkie vibe.

Clay and Chance apply a similar treatment to ever-more intimate interpersonal relationships, as well, as on the quietly lush and truly gorgeous “Killing You Killing Me.” The moral of the story seeming to be that looking for happiness outside of ourselves, if not fully within (or from) others, is just really not ever going to work.

On quite a few tunes, including the haunting “Harder Way,” their harmonies have even less to hide behind, instrumentally speaking, and that’s just fine. The way these guys intuit each other’s every move makes it all seem so effortless.

There’s something very positive to be said for any band that takes a metaphorical beat to reassess and realign, especially while their star is on the rise. When done with the right intentions, as seems to be the case with Jamestown Revival, it may well launch them to wonderful new heights.


San Isabel is available now at iTunes and Amazon.com.

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