In a world where nothing is done without first calculating the mean-old cost/benefit, there is a dude named Tommy Alexander who just does it for the love of it. This former college baseball player turned guitar-playing vagabond has started something of a gypsy record label, gathering the best and most interesting that Burlington, Vermont has to offer. It's as he once said to me, "We focus on poetry and music and our inspiration, and from there we just let it all flow through us."
And so Alexander's second album, Quiet Lion EP, takes it a step beyond the funk-recordings of Dylan's bootleg tapes; in fact, this record is quite the opposite. Alexander shines in this new world where masterful digital music production and online distribution can be done with ease. Tommy Alexander has taken his guerrilla brand of Jenke Records to the streets. He's waging an insurgency of both spirit and grit, playing his own music independent from major labels and in front of as many caffeinated freaks as the Vermont coffee scene has to offer. He's even been known to take his traveling gig as far as California and New York.
The downright truth about Alexander and Jenke Records is that it is an expression of rebellion in a society that is trapped within institutional conformities and down-the-road retirement plans. One listen of Alexander's new EP, and you'll see that what we're dealing with is a modern day Jack Kerouac, whose penchant is for an on-the-road experience and whose mission is to capture what comes from the soul. Filled with an introspective and strikingly truthful style of songwriting, his music can be downright mind-bending -- especially for those of us who have grown used to Pandora's corporate jukebox and the cultural clichés that run with it.
Then there is Grace Flynn, Alexander's singing partner on Quiet Lion EP. Listening to the record, they capture an authentic feel, like you're sitting in one of Alexander's poetry-filled coffee shop gigs yourself. It's like this duet just walked on stage after huffing a few Marlboros and slamming a few beers, and bring a clarity in style and sound that stays through the EP.
Flynn gives a sort of calming balance to Alexander's deep vocals, where you get the feeling that this dude has lived through it. There is just something so soothing and sincere in hearing the truth from these dueling 20-somethings that it strikes you as different. Though different may only be their claim to a bit of definition for this young and lost generation.
So check out the record and take the ride. You're not likely to hear poetry as well-crafted raw from your classic iTunes purchase. You have to dive deep down into the depths of this resurrected beat culture that is normally too drowned out from the corporatized brands and labels to allow anything this sincere and nuanced to be felt.
As Alexander softly suggests from his new EP, Quiet Lion, "...you can sit still with the quiet child and untangle all that is wrong and right."
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