Jphono1 and The Chevrons
Open Field, Sunny Slopes, Triple X Snaxxx
Jphono1 and The Chevrons 2016 release, “Time in the Chevron”, was John Harrison’s first recording with a full band under that moniker. After spending years exploring the more solitary elements of making music as just Jphono1, John decided to bring in John Jaquiss (Sunnyslopes) and Patrick O’Neill (Lacy Jags, Some Army) to round out his cosmic musings, thereby anchoring his compositions with flexible, but dependable, drums and bass. Dubbed the Chevrons, the trio found their footing not so much in galaxy-walking symphonies, but in the infinite horizons of the innerspace. The Astro-Cowboy had come back to Earth, but he brought a little bit of the nebula with him.
“Meadow Magic Hour” finds Jphono1 and The Chevrons expanding from trio to quartet with the addition of Brad Porter (Wild Fur, Some Army) on percussion and harmony vocals, and the result is that this record sounds more like a full band effort than its predecessor. While “Time in the Chevron” was tightly played and well recorded, in many ways it felt like John Harrison backed by a rhythm section dubbed The Chevrons. “Meadow Magic Hour” feels like it was recorded by The Chevrons, and Jphono1 just happens to be lead singer and guitarist. The result of this continuing sonic cohesion among friends and bandmates is a sextet of songs that are lush, earthy, and serpentine.
The opening track “Be Down, Be Free” kicks off with a two note melody and syncopated shuffle before John’s breathy, laconic vocals sing, “You are lost, but not alone. Ease up on thoughts that shake your bones.” Those two lines could be the mantra for the entire record. Jphono1 and The Chevrons implore you to take their hands, turn on, tune in, and drop out with them as the song winds through Beatlesesque chord progressions and a 7/4 bridge, before blasting into a youngish solo, only to come back home to the opening two note shuffle. It’s an invitation away from the upsetting reality of the past year or so, if only for a moment, and it’s welcome.
In truth, most of the record feels like an invitation for the listener to relax, to step outside and take a seat at the bonfire in the backyard of Jphono1’s brain. “Keep It For You” is the most up-tempo track on the album, and it hurries along the giddy edge of a psilocybin peak, complete with a mile wide smile. “In The Trees” is an album standout, with hook after hook of premium pop melodies sung, and played, and stacked on one another such that it’s a wonder Jphono1 and The Chevrons didn’t build other songs around them. Album closer, “Total Harvest” tastefully employs the skills of Triangle pedal steel guru, Nathan Golub, and pushes into territory mined by bands like The Sea and Cake. With more grit and less concern for stylistic constraints, however, it vacillates between jazzy passages and Latin-inspired percussion breakdowns. If the parts described seem disparate, worry not, because they are packaged into a seamless and effective composition.
And let’s be honest. Life is made up of disparate moments, but when you take them as a whole they form a beautiful tapestry, the sum of something greater than its parts. More often than not, the good wins in the end, especially when you choose to be the good. What can four musicians, and some talented guests and engineers achieve? The answer is an album like “Meadow Magic Hour”, where you can feel the dying light of day, but the bonfire just got going, and you have to widen the circle because more friends keep showing up.