JON WAITS is back! What a great sentence to write. The now Dallas-based singer/songwriter has been in town for the last few weeks, participating in a Quarantine Concert among other things.
One thing that hasn’t been part of his visit until now is the release of any new music. In fact, over the last couple of years, Waits has been full time invested in another side of the music industry: live concerts.
Working for Live Nation in Dallas, Waits was in the big leagues and worked on some of the biggest tours of the past two years when they came through Texas. That all stopped when the pandemic hit, so the natural question from fans and Savannahians was concerning his next move musically.
I asked Waits about this in a recent interview, but he didn’t mention anything new on the horizon. As it turns out, the song “Silk and Lace” was waiting in the shadows. It’s a song that has apparently been around for some time, but hadn’t been recorded. Recently, Waits enlisted virtuoso guitarist Andrew Sovine to produce and record the song while he was in town. What resulted is a pretty spectacular snapshot of a moment in artistic time.
“Silk and Lace” features the great Americana storytelling you’d expect from someone like Jon Waits, but Sovine’s presence really enhances things sonically and musically. The production is rather minimal, but it doesn’t feel that way thanks to Sovine’s textural pedal steel layers and subtle keyboard beds. Having those elements underneath Waits’ percussive strum and impassioned vocal lifts the entire song in a very special way.
It could’ve been easy to overproduce a song like this, even without a proper drum kit, but the duo really seems to have taken great care to let the song guide things. Shakers and acoustic keep it moving, and Waits’ impeccable sense of melody is guided by Sovine’s expansive and sustained guitar work. There’s no overplaying here—just simply serving the song.
Some of the sustained electric guitar layers remind me a lot of something Ed O’Brien might do in Radiohead, and in this context that might sound strange but it works. There doesn’t need to be much going on, even with a lead guitar part. Everything surrounds the story and the vocal, which is how a flowing Americana song should be.
Tonally, Waits sounds at his best on this song. Lyrically, he’s firing on all cylinders. There’s imagery here that really compliments the sonics beautifully, and it all feels like part of a package rather than just the recording of a song.
All of this aside, the song also somehow feels like it was captured rather spontaneously and in the moment. By all accounts, it was. It wasn’t labored over for days and days, and you can hear that spirit in the performance. Waits’ vocal up front and there aren’t any frills or even much treated. He sounds like he’s been around the block a bit, because he has.
If there’s a song I’d recommend right now, at a time like this, it would be “Silk & Lace.” It’s a testament to how much talent we have in Savannah, and what happens when you put two of the most talented among us together in a room and let the song go from there.