By: Lauren Jahoda
Muddy Waters, Blind Willie McTell, and Robert Johnson are just three of the 42 influences Jonah Tolchin lists in the “About” section of his Facebook page. It’s obvious to any listener that these bluesy influences rain all over Clover Lane, Tolchin’s newest release. Sure enough however, and unbelievably so, Tolchin somehow manages to invent a formula which extracts from all 42 components — one, as sacred and vital to the finished product as the next. He enumerates a roster of influential artists who come from all walks of life, confirming with his parting words that “everything that has happened, everything that is happening, everything that might happen, and everyone I’ve ever met, or heard of, heard, seen, spoken to, etc” are his inspiration. The pleasure of Tolchin’s sound is from his ability to create music skillfully and gratefully; he draws from every angle and experience imaginable.
My preliminary research on Tolchin revealed a very spiritual individual; someone who believes in an underlying force or craft. I promise that it was not until after this supposition that I noticed he has an entire page on his official website entitled, “SPIRIT,” sandwiched between your typical “MUSIC” and “STORE.” This page displays videos, books, links and even a quote from Jonah himself, which he calls “My Last Life.” Quite evidently, Tolchin’s spirituality isn’t just something he hopes might get the attention of a listener or inquirer here and there, rather it’s something of which he, himself, and his music depends upon and therefore everyone must see it.
Tolchin says, “I am a believer in a deeper meaning behind life. This record is a passionate manifestation of the cosmos in perfect harmony.” And the Clover Lane title itself seems to be at the center of it all. Clover Lane is the street name of which he grew up on in New Jersey. The star-crossed story, as he tells it, is: “’My parents bought the Clover Lane house in 1996. Fast forward to 2012. At the suggestion of a friend, record producer Marvin Etzioni came out to a show of mine in Los Angeles (Room 5). After an inspired conversation, a few weeks later Marvin and I were recording an album together in Nashville.’ Apparently Tolchin’s meeting with Etzioni was set up by Jonah’s friend and singer-songwriter, Alex Wright, who had met Etzioni through another friend and neighbor in Los Angeles. When Jonah eventually met this friend and neighbor, Anna Serridge, at the Wright’s place, he found out that Serridge had purchased and lived in the same house on Clover Lane 16 years prior. It’s my hunch that this materialization is when Tolchin’s spiritual endeavor truly began and, as he noted, Clover Lane was born.
“Mockingbird,” the first track on the album, is bound to get its listeners moving, and therefore is also bound to be one of the most popular tracks on the album. “Hey Baby Blues” is a personal favorite — it’s honest, sexy and is adorned with funny nuances. Tolchin sings,
Hey baby, I got something for you.
If you can get it, you can have it.
Hey baby, lay your pretty head back.
Put that thing in my lap
or lay it down
on the railroad track.
Hey baby, I got something for you.
Style-wise, tracks such as “Diamond Mind” and “Low Life” take a different and more subdued spin than other songs on the album. “Low Life” brings us back to the spiritual mindset of which this album derives:
Low is the life,
and I know that I’m right.
Cold is the comfort it brings in the night.
Fast I will hold
to these truths that I know.
Even though they never really seemed
quite real to me.
So I keep lying low.
Listen to Tolchin’s performances of “Diamond Mind” and “Midnight Rain” for Sawyer Sessions.