Jason Bean, a singer-songwriter originally from Phoenix, NY, and now based in Syracuse, is a worthy local musician to be on the look-out for. Black Then Blue Then Gray sounds very professionally recorded and produced, which is quite notable, being that Bean recorded this, his fifth album, in his home studio, Black Match Studios. Mellow was the first word that came to mind as a very first impression, featuring a simple mix of guitar (played by Bean), vocals (predominantly from Bean himself, but joined by the lovely Kate Crawford on a few of the tunes), drums (masterfully played by Jason’s brother Christopher Bean), and the occasional bass and keys (performed by friend and previous producer Doug Moncrief).
This album can actually be enjoyed on two very different levels. On the surface, if you happen to just be listening in passing, this album can be appreciated for its simplicity and repetitiveness in both the instrumental and lyrical aspects of the music. Full disclosure: I admittedly was not overly impressed by this album when giving it a first listen, in part due to the fact that there aren’t any complicated jams or epic solos, but upon truly listening to the lyrics – which is something you evidently must do to be able to fully appreciate this album – it becomes clear just how impressive this album is. The heartfelt lyrics take you on a journey through something most of us have been through or are presently in: a relationship.
Black Then Blue Then Gray features more traditional love songs such as “Real,” about new love in its purest sense, on which the “guy” is begging his love interest to let him show her “this is something real,” and “Safe,” about feeling truly comfortable and safe with someone, the type of song you wouldn’t mind someone singing to you! But this album also delves into much deeper and more difficult aspects of the relationship. “Let Her Run” puts a clever twist on the cliché “if you love her, let her go,” while “Our Fears” offers the listener an ironic “non-love” song, repeating the lyrics “Don’t tell me that you love me, it’s all downhill from here.”
The album then moves on to the break-up stage of the relationship, from the bitter feelings and trying to justify the break-up on “Smokescreen,” to feeling the burn of being replaced by someone else on (the appropriately named) “Someone Else,” to the acceptance of and finding comfort in being alone on “Windows.” The last song on the album, “You,” brings everything full circle, with Kate Crawford joining in again on this nostalgic song of loving memories and regret about the love they have lost.
Black Then Blue Then Grey presents the listener with a complete story put to music. One could venture to say, even, that the music plays a back seat to the story, while, at the same time, the understated nature of the instrumental components of the album seem to serve as the perfect backdrop to the story: a very symbiotic relationship. This album certainly leaves the listener curious about the four previous albums put out by Jason Bean, as well as those yet to be released.
Key Tracks: Our Fears, Safe, Smokescreen