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The Smoky Sounds of Jake Rozier’s “Cigarettes”

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Spokane’s Jake Rozier has that easy familiarity with his guitar – and banjo, for that matter – which naturally emerges from years of that combination of love and steady practice that you know when you hear it.

After you’ve heard those strings a while, there’s more. There’s a storyteller’s voice, singing phrases that are fresh but at the same time feel familiar, like he’s expressing thoughts maybe you felt once or feel now.

Rozier’s “Cigarettes”, about love that’s on some kind of hiatus and doesn’t know what it is at the moment, has the ring of an empty room that feels like something less. It’s like the singer and his strings are all that remains in a place that once held much more, and he’s not really all that comfortable with that reality.

Oh – and there are the cigarettes his lover left behind.

In another era, in another style, it would be kind of like “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)” being sung by the smooth jazz stylings of Nat King Cole. Except it’s folk, and it’s raw – this is no nostalgic reminiscence. Its’ a yearning for a better time that once was, and a wistfulness for the return of better times in the future. In treating the subject, it’s sort of halfway between “These Foolish Things” and “I’m an Adult Now” by The Pursuit of Happiness – ”No more boy meets girl boy loses girl… More like man tries to understand what the hell went wrong.”

There’s a line from “These Foolish Things” that seems to vibe with the title of Rozier’s album. “Oh, how the ghost of you clings….” “Cigarettes” resides in Rozier’s recently released Hard to Kill A Ghost EP.

“Cigarettes” has a bouncy melody line that feels more discombobulated than bubbly, suiting the tone and subject – albeit in an idiosyncratic way. “Yesterday is Here,” one of Rozier’s earlier tunes, has a contrasting driving and bluesy feel to it. The stylings of each of Rozier’s songs are intrinsically connected to the emotions in the lyrics – the melody and rhythm can’t be separated from the songs’ intents.

Rozier’s lyrics rest in a listener’s ears and quietly wend their way into the mind. And as good as he is at what he does and being who he is, there should be scores of musicians wanting to cover his tunes as well.

“Cigarettes” is its own kind of classic in waiting.

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