SEPT 1, 2011 - TEN SLEEP, WY
Jalan Crossland Unveils “Portrait”
Jalan’s sixth album, Portrait of a Fish, is an enjoyable and eclectic 12 song collection and in a way the album reflects a return to his early recording roots. Like Poorboy Shanty (his second album) and Moonshiner (his third), Portrait of a Fish is rootsy and honest, with greater emphasis on performance and less on production. Those earlier outings were more sparsely produced than his more recent full band offerings.
But Portrait of a Fish goes beyond that simple comparison. Yes, it’s a “solo project” in the truest sense – just Jalan and his guitar or banjo, performing each song in a simple no frills setting – no overdubs, no studio “hocus pocus”, no nonsense. More than that however, the album demonstrates his growth as an artist. Tracking the album, one can sense his confidence as a performer and maturity as a musician.
The album opens with the title cut, a light-hearted and clever tale of a fish in search of a painter to render his (or her – with fish how can you tell?) portrait. His banjo-loving fans will appreciate the appearance of the banjo in three of the first five songs, as well as being the featured instrument on the album’s lone instrumental, “Colored Aristocracy”. His guitar prowess is first revealed in “Joanne”, where he adeptly delivers a minute-and-a-half guitar movement. Crossland leads the listener through this set of original compositions, traditional songs, and the occasional cover tune. Not surprisingly, Crossland commences the album on a crescendo with his version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Don Quixote” that features another extended (three-minutes-plus) guitar movement.
Portrait of a Fish embodies the core sensibilities of Jalan Crossland the artist. As a storyteller, musician and entertainer, Crossland delivers on all counts. Long time fans and first time listeners alike will appreciate the unforced grace of this album, which is perhaps his most spectacular collection to date.