Singer/songwriter Jason Eady's earlier recordings walked the Americana line closely, but it wasn't until he teamed with producer Kevin Welch for 2012's AM Country Heaven that his music took shape and embraced traditional country. Daylight/Dark is a conceptual follow-up to that fine album, and like its predecessor, it remains rooted in honky tonk, country gospel, hillbilly blues, and outlaw country, performed without artifice or nostalgia. While the sound is modern, it's worlds away from the slickly produced, mixed-genre mess that is contemporary country. Eady and his acoustic guitar are backed by Fats Kaplin's whining pedal steel, Richard Bennett's biting Telecaster, John Gardner's uncluttered drumming, Steve Mackey's electric bass, and backing vocalists where necessary. Daylight/Dark details the life of a man torn by his choices and addictions in the first person. It seems that no matter how well-intentioned he is when he wakes, by nightfall, he becomes prey to his self-destructive behavior. A vicious cycle driven by alcoholism and poisoned love are at the core of his difficulties. Eady's earthy, expertly crafted songs detail the causes, consequences, and the humble beginnings of a change in his protagonist's life. He is a hell of a singer: tenderness, grit, passion, and pain are woven inseparably in the grain of his voice. Opener "OK Whiskey" is full of bravado; it's a hard-swinging honky tonk anthem. "The Other Side of Abilene" is a one-two shuffle that reveals a lonely yet unapologetic life even as ghosts present and past have to be drunk away. "One Two...Many" is a hardcore barroom ballad worthy of George Jones. The title track follows suit, but it's clear that the bottom is falling out. The compassion for his character is displayed not only in Eady's singing but in the arrangement of strummed acoustic and fingerpicked electric guitars, gently tapped snare, and Courtney Patton's gorgeous backing vocal that adds depth and dimension. The wrenching, hunted, "Whiskey and You" articulates self-awareness as it equates the twin addictions in this man's life, but also his powerlessness to change. Fueled by Kaplin and Bennett, "Late Night Diner" is a devastating ballad in country music's grand confessional tradition. Eady's protagonist surrenders, becomes accountable, and admits defeat; he's not chasing anything anymore, he accepts his pain, and sees himself as he is -- which is what makes real change possible. Set-closer "A Memory Now" is a jaunty two-step that celebrates life in the moment and his lovelorn past with humor in the rearview mirror. While Daylight/Dark is technically a concept album it's more representatively a songwriter's record, telling stories of people we not only know, but perhaps have been. In terms of quality, it belongs on a shelf next to Dwight Yoakam's Buenos Noches from a Lonely Room, Joe Ely's Letter to Laredo, and yes, even Willie Nelson's Phases and Stages.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek