Jared & the Mill: Expanding Westward

by Frank Ippolito

As Jared & The Mill get ready to release their debut album, Western Expansion, and embark on their most extensive tour of their existence, their horizons have never been this expanded and their future never brighter.

With a September 17th album release date set, Jared & The Mill plan to kick off their tour at The Sail Inn on September 19th with the support of some favorite local bands. And from the look of things, Jared Kolesar, lead vocals/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Michael Carter, lead gutarist Larry Gast III, Chuck “Bassman” Morriss III (electric bass/upright bass), percussionist/drummer Josh Morin, and Gabe Hall-Rodrigues (accordion & piano) are ready to embrace this new chapter in their career.

“Our band will be reaching as far east as Austin, Texas and as far north as Seattle, WA. This will be our longest adventure to date and we couldn’t be more excited to share our tunes with the rest of our great western family,” said singer/songwriter Jared Kolesar.

Western Expansion features Jared and the Mill’s signature musical style. To say it’s engaging would be an understatement. The 12, count ‘em, 12 tracks are individually punctuated with folk, bluegrass, Americana, and rock starting off with “Breathe Me In”.

A love letter of pleading and redemption, “Breathe Me In” begs a lover to look past all the imperfections that all of us can relate to, and asks, pleads, not to give up because deep down inside the writer of this letter knows their heart is good.

Damn. A very good way to start a record.

“Returning Half” further intrigued me with its roaring guitar riff, perfect harmonies and terrific clapping breakdown. “In Our Youth” couldn’t be more fun: staying up late, boozing, talking – all wrapped lushly in a blanket of banjo and driving bass.

More please.

And just as J&tM got my feet tapping, “Ides of Fall” explores the difficult and sometimes tumultuous child/parent relationship. Again, seriously, the storytelling here is brilliant. That combined with a whispery banjo lead line that leads into a hopeful hand-clapping ending to an unfinished saga. And, what would an Americana record be without demons? “What Would You Do” is so relatable that I, you, he or she could see ourselves in the story. Then, without warning, the guys turn up the tempo and turn the song into an anthem of hope.

The title track, “Western Expansion”, tells a story, (and if I keep repeating “tells a story” I apologize, but Kolesar knows how to tell a story). Although on the surface this is a story of going West to find fortune, for me, it’s an analogy for looking for something better even though you may have what you need right where you are.

“Love To Be Found” is a song full of hopefulness. Regardless how hard a relationship can be, as long as you’re together with the one you love, well, in Kolesar’s words, “And with your hand pressed to mine I’ll be fine.”

I’m going to stop now and let you discover the rest of the album for yourself. But make no mistake you will not be disappointed. There is something in this record for everyone. My favorite, and I have many, is “Wrecking Ball”. Not that it is the most rocking, but again the story of finding oneself, with someone important to you, just resonated to me like a wonderfully written short story.

The aspect of the record I enjoyed most is the way Jared & the Mill go from down tempo to an absolutely furious pace – fueled by Carter’s banjo. But without Morin’s pounding drums and triplet snares and Morriss’ thumping bass, it wouldn’t have the same warm feel. And Hall-Rodrigues’ work on the accordion and piano ensure that the music stays afloat and light.

Truth be told, this is what Mumford & Sons wishes it was. The storytelling on Western Expansion far exceeds the other bands in this category. There’s a depth and substance to the lyrics, there’s polysyllabic words, J&TM don’t settle for the easy rhyme like, well, you know whom.  This is a thinking person’s folk: thoughtful words, interesting stories (I mentioned it again), and, quite frankly, although the music is folk-y Americana, it breaks through in this category and manages to free itself of genre.

I enjoyed listening to Western Expansion, if you couldn’t tell, and next up for me is The Sail Inn on September 19th for the live performance. Oh, and you still have a few days left to contribute to Jared & the Mill’s Kickstarter campaign. The band has already been successful securing the funds needed for their album but you still have a chance to score the early release as well as some other cool swag from the band.

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