Folk of July Fest: Jack Valen

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This Saturday, July 6th at the Scoot Inn, the Eye in the Sky collective presents the Folk of July Fest. It’ll be a great group of musicians performing across two stages. You’ll be able to catch Whiskey Shivers, Jazz Mills (of Cowboy and Indian), Hello Caller, Ghosts Along the Brazos, and many more. Today, to prepare you for the show, we are reviewing the forthcoming EP from singer-songwriter Jack Valen, who will performing on the Outside Stage at 7:45 at the festival. Doors for the whole event are at 4:30. Tickets are $12 ahead of time and $15 at the door.

Praised by the Austin Chronicle’s Musicians Register as “the magic that’s all but vanished in today’s music”, singer-songwriter Jack Valen, humbly claiming on his Facebook page to be influenced by Truth, has the women (and men) reeling for the country rock he offers. Most exemplary of his diversity in songwriting and style is his most recent EP, House of Lions. Each track can stand alone with its own character and intent, but as a package this gallant feat by Valen is an ode to the dry, raw reeds of folk music.

The bluesy opening “Fate Song” oozes with biting attitude vibrating somewhere between Austin’s Leopold and His Fiction and Black Angels but stripped down to just Jack. Feel Valen’s voice tremble. Hear that guitar wail.

Whether or not Valen took notes from Rob Base and DJ E Z Rock’s 1988 hit “It Takes Two,” or from the widely acclaimed 1995 Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen flick It Takes Two, the romantically buddy system themed song seems to be the anchor of the album. Although obviously not written with the single gal in mind, “It Takes Two” is hands down the single, and what a catch she is. It reminds those in relationship-land to hold on tight. Nevertheless, without sucking too much marrow out of the young sap, I must say that the woman Valens describes is highly idealistic and square-pegged, only best fit for this charming little country song. Still, kudos to Valen for ascertaining the perfect “woman who listens to records and drinks wine”. What takes my gold star on this track, however, is the showcase of Valen’s Dylanesque harmonica chops to close.

“Friend of Mine”, or not, protests about what makes a non-friend. Valen prefaces his talk about this ex-friend with candid descriptions of multiple instances of let-downs like, “When all I knew was misery, lifted your glass and drank to me.” On this track, Valen dastardly peels off his charming folkster image for brash candor, singing in vain, “No, man, scratch that, you ain’t no friend of mine.”

“Fire, Canons” perhaps my favorite track on the EP, employs a midnight cowboy’s restlessness and sorrow growing out of memories of past love lost, hence the line “we were young, but so was Truth.” With tender vocal threadings not dissimilar to songwriter Kristian Matsson’s of The Tallest Man on Earth, Valen admittingly struggles with and stresses “I know your heart is hurting.”

House of Lions makes evident the magic of Jack Valen and his status as a singer-songwriter to watch. It will be available for sale at the Folk of July Fest, in advance of its July 9th release.

– Audrey Rodriguez

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