A 3 piece group from Ft. Inn, SC. Fueled by the spirits of the Appalachia. From the spirits of the deep woods and those found in glass jars.
It is a truth held in the most sacred of regard in certain subterranean sects of modern society that music, much like love, is not something to be experienced passively or wrought over academically, but instead is something to be done, and done with such emotional precision and a heart whose rhythms are tuned perfectly to the needs of its owner and those that surround that it informs every other action performed by the lover or, as it might be, the music maker, the singer of the song whose voice harmonizes effortlessly with the warming winds that float calmly over the doorsteps of those subterranean homes. I have seen many places like this, but none will ever feel more like a safehouse to me than the one that exists in some tucked-away corner of Fountain Inn, South Carolina where the only lights to shroud the stars come from a convenience store through the trees and a lone streetlight humming quietly over the adjacent road. We’ve made good use of the liquor store so close by that I’ve had to park my car in front on particularly festive nights that attract more than the usual crowd of singers, strummers, and sketchbook Shakespeares, but it stays dark at night and never intrudes on the twinkling tapestry sky if anyone should find reason to step outside and breathe cleaner air. The house is brick, but holes here and there dictate that it bend and bow to the whims of the world outside. When the Carolina air is cold, so is the house. If it becomes comfortably warm or blistering hot, so goes the climate of the subterranean home. It is the sort of house that hosts so many comers and bids fond goodbyes to so many goers that a curious neighbor, if there was one, might puzzle over which of these people actually reside in the brick house by the streetlight and which have just come to visit, drink, have a smoke, and see the show.
In a way, Jake Garrett has a foot in each group. It’s true that the affable, twang-spoken guy with braids in his hair is a resident of the house and the center of its musical goings-on, but he might also be its biggest fan, an incurable admirer of the unsaddled creativity that takes place within the walls of his home. Although primarily a singer and guitarist, Jake is able to produce something worthwhile from nearly any instrument he touches, and one quickly gets the impression that he derives just as much pleasure from his own songwriting as he does watching others work, surprising themselves with what they are able to accomplish with their own playing and writing. And this is the key to Jake’s merit as an artist. Although enormously talented himself, he possesses the rare combination of musical patience and basic human warmth that continuously brings out the best in those who have the good fortune to play with him. And they are legion. Due to his creative attention deficit, it’s difficult to keep a solid count of all of the music projects Jake is currently involved in, but his most inspired work comes through within the confines of the alternative country/bluegrass ensemble Blueroots and his most recent endeavor, the blues-rock trio Mason Jar Menagerie.
With regard to the latter, it can safely be said that blues-saturated rock and roll is nothing new. In fact, the genre seems to have experienced something of a low-fidelity renaissance in recent years, so it isn’t much of a coincidence that listeners experiencing Mason Jar Menagerie for the first time usually offer favorable comparisons to the Black Keys and early White Stripes recordings. But while such parallels work as an acceptable reference point, they don’t do much to explain how Jake, his sister/drummer Susan Garrett, and bassist Ameer Raja approach their music, because for all of its hoopla about rebellion and youthful aggression, rock and roll is a genre steeped up to its elbows in the mire of tradition. It’s an unfortunate fact that this tradition can be studied and mimicked to the point that it becomes something more closely resembling a trend, leaving little to nothing of its foundation, that hard-wired concrete slab on which the mass of imitators stand. Mason Jar Menagerie are not among them. When placed in the wrong hands, blues-based rock and roll can be an exhausting, lumbering beast that must be tolerated before we are allowed to move on to something that more efficiently steamrolls the human soul. But when it’s done properly—that is, with an emphasis on feeling instead of giving in to the prickly urge to make sense of it all, with the enthusiasm of a child and his brand new toy—it reminds a listener how much fun rock and roll can be and why so many of its adherents choose to pick up a guitar in the first place. Mason Jar Menagerie makes no claims of reinvention. It probably hasn’t even crossed their minds. There is no flash, no inane rock star pretenses. There is only Susan, bouncing in her seat and playing the drums with her whole body, Ameer, concerned with nothing but the groove and pushing the train steadily down the line, and Jake, wailing with his mouth and fingers and perfectly willing to play for seven hours straight if you’d let him.
by Michael Spawn