On the Verge: Jabe Beyer

Jabe Beyer is an award-winning songwriter who got his start in our very own Boston. Although he relocated to Nashville in 2007, he has a loyal following here; he has been recognized by the Boston Phoenix and has won multiple Boston Music Awards. If the hometown praise isn’t enough, you might recognize Jabe Beyer’s music from TV shows like True Blood, Justified, and Lie To Me.

Beyer’s music does seem perfectly fitted to a dramatic screen montage. There’s something very familiar and soothing about his sound. He paints elegant, sweeping portraits of universal characters, especially in the second song he played at the WERS studios, “Where The Mountains Don’t Go.” The lyrics are melancholy and yearning, backed by his gentle guitar playing. “Peaks so high, valleys so low / trying to get somewhere the mountains don’t go,” he sings on the chorus, and then follows with verses about businessmen giving up on dreams: “Victory ain’t always what it claims to be / and happiness don’t always bounce you around on its knee.”

Beyer has been called, by the Boston Globe, a “leader in the roots music renaissance,” which is something that doesn’t really mean much to him: “Is that happening right now? I don’t really know what that means,” he laughed, asked about this so-called renaissance. “I guess it just means people will play their instruments and don’t sing into Auto-Tune machines, which is rare… I’ve never strived for that. That kind of music tends to appeal to me more. I tend to enjoy the whole organic, people playing music together sort of vibe.”

This vibe was captured on his 2011 live album Live at the Family Wash. Beyer was playing a local residency in Nashville and put together a remarkable lineup of backup musicians, including Audley Freed (Black Crowes), Brad Pemberton (Ryan Adams and the Cardinals), Frank Swart (Norah Jones), and Jen Gunderman (The Jayhawks). “I couldn’t really sound bad with all these great people playing with me,” he says modestly. These were, in his words, just part of the local family of musicians he’d built up in Nashville: “It sort of happened completely by accident… I sort of stumbled into having this insanely good band.”

As for the album itself, another friend showed up with sound equipment, Beyer decided he wanted to sell new material on his next tour, and the rest is history. “The whole thing was sort of completely accidental, which is probably a good thing because if I’d thought about it, it probably would’ve fallen apart,” he says.

Whether he’s conscious of it or not, there really is a roots music renaissance happening in the country right now. Popular bands like the Avett Brothers, who have taken an indie sensibility and melded it with country rock and pop songwriting, have paved the way for a wide variety of up-and-coming artists. However, Beyer has proved himself, over the course of six albums, to be not just another copycat, but one of the true originals. More bands should be following his lead, and more people should just get together and play music.

By Ella Zander

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