Jace Everett has a had a long, strange trip. And it doesn’t appear to be over.
Born in the river town of Evansville, IN. Everett was on the move from the very beginning. By the time he’d graduated from Grapevine High School, in Tarrant County Texas, he had shared some 18 mailing addresses with his family.
Contentment, let alone complacency, don’t seem to be part of his DNA.
Growing up as an Evangelical fire-brand, with a relentless intellectual curiosity, is going to lead to some long nights chasing down questions that may not have any answers. Thankfully, there was music. A place where Everett felt at home from a very early age.
One of the peculiar side effects of being devoutly religious in the 1980’s- and listening to “Christian” music almost exclusively for a few formative years - seems to be losing an fealty to specific genres. Everett grew up working construction and in commercial kitchens. So he was exposed to classic country, Tejano, and classic rock while at work. But on his own he was listening to Trad gospel, Contemporary Christian Pop and Rock, and the Jazz he could enjoy on there local station.
That may in fact be the root cause of his genre crashing career; from doing contemporary rock, outlaw country, blues, swamp rock, and European flavored pop, Everett seems most comfortable when he’s pushing songs to their breaking point instead of following a trend.
His self-proclaimed “claims to infamy” are exemplars of this; the #1 Country hit “Your Man” (as recorded by Josh Turner) and “Bad Things” the theme song to HBO’s True Blood. The first being a traditionalist anthem to monogamy and love. The second being the lascivious grin that introduces a show filled with sex, blood, and violence.
After being liberated (that means fired) from his major label Nashville deal and securing the coveted True Blood theme, Everett did what he always does; push against expectations and follow his own ideas. “Career” moves be damned.
Hooking up with longtime hero Chuck Prophet, Everett’s 2010 Red Revelations album went on to sell over 30k units in the UK alone and propelled him to household name status within Scandinavia. Seeing the writing on the wall, Everett doubled down and toured Europe extensively.
In 2011 Jace released Mr. Good Times, a genre blending collection of songs from Americana to European rock. It confused critics and put a huge smile on Everett’s face.
His 2012 release “Terra Rosa” took him back to his roots. On the lush and wide ranging album he explored 11 different stories from the Bible from unique angles that only a well informed arm-chair theologian with a cynical mind and an open heart could manage.
After a brutal divorce (is there any other kind?) and several years of slogging it out across Europe, Everett was bruised and battered.
But in 2015 he met a woman that changed that. And for the first time, in a very long time, he began to write love songs. Hope songs. Songs in search of solace. Songs that made up 2017’s Dust & Dirt. (By the way, he married the girl. Her name is Nicole.)
The rebel spirit is still there. In a song like “Love’s Not What We Do” you can hear him still kicking against the pricks and decrying the current political calamities. The darkness is still there, too. “Woke Up In This Town” explores the despair and resentment of a man grown too weary with the world.
But in other songs, “Green or Blue”, “Golden Ring”, and “Lowlands” we hear an artist fighting not against, but for something. For someone.
The stone cold Texas country of “Rescue Me” waltzes by with all of those conflicts on display; resignation, defeat, hope, victory… all in the confines of a 6/8 stroll that couldn’t get arrested on Country radio. Cause it’s too damn country.
The genre twisting remains as well. “Under the Sun” is a psychedelia infused rockabilly rave up. “Free (Don’t Ask Me)” the kind of stream of consciousness rock with strings song that reminds one of Camper Van Beethoven or early Radiohead.
The albums closer, a live recording of Guy Clarks “The Last Gunfighter”, was recorded on the very day that Mr. Clark passed on. As a mentor and touring partner, Guy’s influence can be felt and seen, if not necessarily heard, throughout Everett’s career. Defiant, stubborn, a little wild, highly literate, and always looking for the next idea to either subdue or surrender to.
Jace Everett has come a very long way. But there are miles to go before he sleeps.