You Know Chris Kroeze, Now Meet Jason Chaffee

Walter Rhein

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The Chris Kroeze phenomenon is about to unleash a literal horde of conquering Wisconsin recording artists. They can’t be reasoned with, they can survive temperatures of up to -85 degrees Kelvin, they can withstand wind chills of up to infinity, and they can swig a milkshake so fast it would make your great grandfather’s brain freeze.

Oh yeah, and they can rock.

What do you think Wisconsin warriors are doing when the sun goes behind the horizon for the long 15 months of winter? The Packers don’t make the playoffs every year, and even if they did they don’t play 24 hours a day. Some of the intervening time is spent howling at the moon, often accompanied by squealing guitars and the grinding rhythm of the primordial wonderverse.

HERE’S WHAT I’M THINKING:

Back in the day, there used to be a few bars around Miraflores (Lima, Peru) where they’d occasionally get dudes who knew all the words to Air Supply and Men at Work. These guys would stumble through a few sets to a crowd of 10 to 15 screaming beauties, and then be carried off into the night on a cushion of abject adulation. Yeah, it wasn’t exactly the big time, but for all practical purposes it was as big as any artist needs to be.

I’m thinking that maybe I could organize a Lima rock tour for Jason Chaffee. He’d come down, alone, a man and a guitar, exit the airplane, declare a double helping of awesomeness to immigration, and then stroll down the foggy corridors of Pizza street where a band of local hopefuls would mystically assemble and await his bidding.

Then Chaffee and the others would take the stage, and bring about a musical revolution to stretch from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the peaks of the Andes. Fish, buoyed by the incomprehensible forces of ‘El Nino’ would rise to the surface of the water and have their genetic material changed by the chanting of Chaffee’s angelic tunes rendered mortal.

FROM WHENCE I KNOW CHAFFEE

You may think that Luke Skywalker’s day job of farming moisture in the arid deserts of Tatooine was the worst job in the universe. Miserable, alone, awaiting the fleeting moments when he could escape with Riggs Darklighter to Tosche station to pick up some power converters and escape the daily monotony of his lowly existence.

Well, you’d be wrong, Luke didn’t have the worst job… I did. Back in my youth I was employed as a septic landscape burrower. My days were spent encased from head to toe in a condom-thin protective wrapping as I was made to wriggle through fecal mater for 15 hours a day at 15 cents an hour.

It was the kind of job that made you want to kill yourself through starvation. So there I was, riding home on my 4 hour commute after my 15 hour shift, hungry, unhappy, covered in goo, when Jeff, my carpool companion said, “Hey, I just go this demo tape, want to hear it?”

I was so committed to my misery, I just barked, “NO.” But Jeff put it in anyway, and it was a bootleg early version of “Time” by Jason Chaffee, written some 20 years ago. And even though the audio quality was was not near the version you’ll find on the most recently pressed MP3, the survival essence of that song remained intact, and I found myself digging my rancid fingers in between the cushions of that rusty ‘82 Buick LeSabre for a dried out, crusty, McDonald’s French fry from which I was able to extract the necessary sustenance to carry on.

NOW THE PART SUITABLE FOR AMAZON

Jason Chaffee’s release ‘Carry Me’ lies somewhere at the intersection of blues, grunge, and awesome. I’m not sure who the back up band is, but they know how to handle their instruments. The songs all fit into that nice, mellow range of music that you’d like to wake up to. An album with a similar vibe (but a different sound) is Tom Petty’s ‘Wallflowers.’

The lyrics are soul searching without being overbearing. This is a nice, reflective album (sort of the way Steve Earl’s ‘Train a Coming’ is reflective…but ‘Carry Me’ doesn’t sound like that either). There’s maturity in the words and a hopefulness that lessons have been learned from past mistakes. There’s great humility here and a good foundation for the future.

There is also what I would call a ‘Seattle sound’ but I’m so out of the loop with modern music that perhaps that statement doesn’t mean what I think it means. I’m thinking 90s ‘Seattle Sound’ and frankly don’t care what Seattle sounds like now (it probably sounds like people ordering things online and mispronouncing your name at the coffee shop).

The tracks on 'Carry Me’ go by fast. You’ll put it in, hit play, and be transported to the end before you know it. I wish there was more stuff like this on the radio and less Taylor Swift, if that were the case, perhaps I’d drive more. Nice work Chaffee, this is a recording to be proud of.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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