Jason Eklund

Jason Eklund

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The photo that Flying Fish uses on the front cover of Jason Eklund's debut album is in sepia; it looks like it could have been taken during the Great Depression. But Eklund wasn't even alive in the '30s; he wasn't born until 1970, and this CD didn't come out until 1993. However, the cover's retro look is appropriate because Eklund is a very traditional and rootsy folk/folk-rock singer, and he isn't one to hide his love of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Leadbelly, or early Bob Dylan. Eklund's debut is unapologetically derivative; no one will accuse this album of being innovative or groundbreaking. But derivative doesn't necessarily mean bad -- not every artist who comes along is obligated to reinvent the wheel, and Eklund (who was in his early twenties when this album came out) shows a lot of promise on earthy originals like "When the Night Is Long" and "Loves in Oklahoma." It isn't hard to see why the late Bruce Kaplan, Flying Fish's founder, was so enthusiastic about signing Eklund -- he is a charismatic, expressive singer, and it is obvious that his love of traditional folk, early folk-rock, and country blues runs deep. Eklund is fairly unpredictable; the singer/songwriter is primarily a folk artist, but he has no problem making a detour into jazz territory on "I Am the Road" or getting into Louisiana-style rock & roll on "Vacation From Myself" (which would not have been out of place on one of Fats Domino's early LPs). "So Long," meanwhile, favors the sort of country/post-doo wop blend that was quite common in the early '60s. This promising debut leaves no doubt that Kaplan's belief in Eklund was totally justified.

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