The swinging blues and lulling acoustics of New-Jersey-native Jonah Tolchin’s upcoming LP Clover Lane are a far cry from his self-confessed “rebellious” childhood. Or are they? They can hardly be described as head banging, guitar smashing music, but Jonah’s mellow blues are armed with a rugged edge. Having lived a tumultuous youth as a high school drop-out and criminal law-breaker, Tolchin found himself in a whirlwind depression. Turning to music as an outlet, it was the blues of Mississippi that granted the youngster the ultimate solace. Blues masters Buddy Guy and Freddie King became heroes for Tolchin, and hints of their slow rolling style seeps through his own take on the genre.
Clover Lane twists and turns through love, loneliness and happier times, each track soaked in real, heartfelt emotion. It marks the first Yep Roc album for the singer, whose debut EP Criminal Man was entirely independently produced; Clover Lane stands as Jonah’s stepping stone into the spotlight. The LP was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee with a host of big names in the industry. Tolchin once remarked that “the most beautiful thing about music is collaboration”, and collaboration has certainly worked well within his favour this time around. The American singer-songwriter worked alongside producer Mavin Etzioni from country rock outfit Lone Justice, as well as Chris Scruggs of Los Lobos during the creation of Clover Lane. The album has seen Tolchin refine his style further, bordering traditional folklore melodies with the deeper Mississippi melancholia. Yet the young artist refuses to stray completely from his roots; the album’s moniker stems from Tolchin’s very own hometown road in New Jersey.
Clover Lane gets off to a thundering start with the opening track ‘Mockingbird’: prepare your ears to be filled with screeching harmonicas and stomping rhythms, all characteristic of true blues style. ‘Atlantic Wind’ sees no decrease in tempo, and features scratchy guitar twangs amidst Jonah’s rugged vocals. The result is devastatingly flawless. The whole collection is heavily reminiscent of the blues sovereigns Guy and King, injected with some tender fiddles and guitar pitches, which in turn evoke some good old southern country music.
Tolchin also indulges in some down-tempo tracks including ‘I’ll Be Gone’, which showcases his raw vocal talent; there is something so warming about the simultaneously gravelly yet delicate quality of Jonah’s voice. Performed with equal heart and effortlessness is the blindingly romantic ‘Diamond Mind’, a song that tells the tale of his marriage proposal to his now wife. He claims “the song started out as a stream of consciousness as I was staring out of the window in Rhode Island…I ran out to the road, picked some tall-grass, wove a ring…a few minutes later I drove her out to a tunnel of trees and proposed.” I think that says it all; Tolchin manages to transcend all emotional boundaries: his music is three dimensional, his lyrics boundless.
Biting rhythms, catchy bridges and a passionate soul is how I would sum Jonah Tolchin’s Clover Lane. The sound is as beautiful as it is harsh, with a glimmer of each genre around every corner. So what genre is Clover Lane? Having had the pleasure of listening to this album, the answer is, in the words of Tolchin himself, “I don’t believe in genres”.
Find Jonah Tolchin performing Clover Lane in London this July.
Words - Claudia Turnbull
'Clover Lane' is released on Yep Roc Records - July 28th
Watch 'Diamond Mind'