by Jim Blum
You are not about to read of Jonathan Byrd the PGA golfer, nor am I going to tell you about the guy who owns the popular cafeteria in Indiana. This Jonathan Byrd is a guitarist, writer, and singer from North Carolina, a guy who Folk Alley has been playing for several years. His new release, the oddly titled Cackalack is much more rootsy than his previous releases, and sometimes quite bluegrassy.
Cackalacky is vernacular poetry for Carolina. The songs are rooted in the simple joys or upsetting events that strike a chord with this musician or anyone who lives in this state. Ironically, the album was recorded in Ontario, but very authentically — in a converted garage studio, with no overdubs, second takes, or audio sweetening of any kind. Apparently Jonathan was touring in Canada, and has close friends there, and the album was somewhat spur of the moment.
If that’s true, we are lucky the tape was rolling because a couple of gems were captured.
“I Was an Oak Tree” is the album’s most stirring song, eloquently detailing all the wonderful things made from oak. The song not only cites examples, but it takes us through history. Byrd is able to command such respect for the tree that you feel like applauding it. “Father’s Day” presents another moment of honesty, this one more personal. Jonathan sings very directly about his late father, recalling for most of us the desire to please our Dads.
“Scuppernog” is another example of southern vernacular, and speaks of life’s final moments, from connection to release. The album’s title, “Cackalack!” is a road song of absolute delight. Simply driving down the back roads of North Carolina is a thrill, but when you roll down the window to talk to someone, you jet back to a time when we were all much friendlier, less complicated, and more accepting. This album is the next best thing to being there.