Jared & The Mill – Western Expansion

Over the last two years six young men performing music deeply steeped in Americana roots and traditional folk music have made an enormous impact in Arizona music. In the last year alone it’s been difficult to go to any venue without seeing a flyer for Jared & The Mill or, in fact seeing them play. These years of continually playing together have primed Jared & The Mill for a thoroughly engaging album featuring originally composed songs that combine their inspirations of Folk Music, Bluegrass, Americana, and good old Rock ‘n’ Roll. They also seem to have a broad appeal to audiences both young, old and everywhere in between.

Jared & The Mill is Jared Kolesar (Singer/Songwriter, Lead Vocals), Michael Carter (Banjo, Mandolin, Harmonica), Larry Gast III (Lead Guitar, Second Vocals), Chuck Morriss (Electric Bass, Upright Bass), Josh Morin (Percussion, Drums) and Gabe Hall-Rodrigues ( Accordian, Piano). It’s this combination of talent and personalities that makes their full length debut album Western Expansion one of the most highly anticipated fall releases and after crushing their Kickstarter campaign, the release is only weeks away.

Western Expansion kicks off with the dynamic energy of “Breathe Me In,” a song that has already received significant airplay on KWSS 93.9 and is easily one of the best singles of the year. With lyrics like “I’m a hunter, I’m a killer, but I haven’t any guns, and I may be a sinner, but there’s things I’ve not done, I know that I’m a monster and that’s what I’ll always be, It’s a shame to think that you would waste your life with me” has to be some of the finest lyrics opening an album or a song, for that matter, I’ve heard in a long time. Yeah, this might be folk music, but this folk music that kicks ass. The pace picks up even further with “Returning Half” which gets my vote to be the next single from the album, exploring a bit more rock influence than their other songs with a bit of debt to alt.country sounds reminiscent of Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo. The clapping sing-a-long in the end is worth the price of admission alone.

“In Our Youth” continues the pace, which is part of what makes this album so engaging. This isn’t your typical indie-folk outfit that dips into lulls quickly, this is folk music at breakneck speed filled with clever lyrics, which in this case are about the wreckless abandon of youth, measuring the success of an evening by how many bottles you go through. While “Ides Of Fall” does slow things down a bit, the quality of the story telling, the lyrical poetry involved is absolutely captivating. The textured depths of the orchestration and arrangements are brilliantly presented and when things get heavy, the effect is explosive. “Love To Be Found” is yet another potential single, a mid tempo number and probably one of the sweetest love songs released in a long time by anyone—just pure love, without a lesson of loss or misunderstanding, just authentic heartfelt notions, simple and straight to the point.

With “What Would You Do”, it becomes clear that Jared & The Mill could get five singles out of the first half of the album alone. The driving velocity of their sound, their mix of genres and styles, along with a supreme knack for creating great pop hooks within a setting dressed in folk flourishes, banjo laden tales that are supremely accessible if not completely addictive. “Talewind” opens the second half of the album and the streak of success in making great songs the completely encompass a feeling of a unique place in space, somehow strangely out of time. There is something anachronistic about Jared & The Mill’s entire sound, but yet there is enough modernity to it that keeps it contemporary and fresh.

“Brave Young Man” was the first song I ever heard by the band, again another consideration for single material, this is the song that sold me on their sound and I’ve been a fan since. Musically, it’s a fairly simple number, considering their other material, but lyrically it’s a fascinating study of youth, and the realization of one’s uncertainty in the world. “I’ve told myself I’m a better man than most, but to my friends I’m as see through as a ghost, they tell me what I need and beg me not to stay, but I’m a brave young man and I’ve got nothing left to say.” Brilliant. The reflections of regret embedded in “Know Your Face” show yet another facet to the complicated psyche found within Kolesar’s songwriting and Americana dipped poetry. Yet another single in the waiting, with this much radio ready material in one album, the boys in the band may want to think about licensing their songs to television and film. Each song becomes a film unto itself and it would be easy to see how well they would fit in a show or a movie.

In “Just For Now”, Kolesar announces “I’m a monster of affection, you’re my beautiful addiction, so lie to me and tell me how, I’m okay, it’s just for now.” The song is another variation of Kolesar’s attempt to come to terms with himself and the theme is explored in most of the album and while it is perhaps the most low key number on the album, it is heart wrenching in its delivery. “Wrecking Ball” is straight out bluegrass, farmyard, front porch music that evokes a different time, a world where things were simpler, but more confused. This could have been written in 1896 and we would be none the wiser. The title track closes out the album, like a beautiful sunset on a perfect day. “I heard there is gold out west, in the sky where the sun makes its rest…the western expansion is all that you have and the lights from the East can rest.” It’s a hell of a finale when it explodes halfway through and Kolesar is very nearly screaming the chorus. It is a perfect ending to a flawless record. If you wonder what the fuss about Jared & The Mill is all about, spend the better part of an hour with these twelve songs and you will have no doubt about one of the most engaging music acts around and the near perfect record they have produced to share their vision with the world.

In the past two years, Jared & The Mill have brought their talents forward to support acts like Joe Pug, Horsefeathers, Youngblood Hawke, Flogging Molly, Cake and The Killers. They have played in venues throughout the Southwest, including the Legendary Roxy Theater in Los Angeles, and Isleta Amphitheater in Albuquerque. With the completion of the album Western Expansion these six young men are preparing an extensive tour of the Western states to promote the September release of this powerful debut.  They’ve developed an astounding fan base in Arizona in a very short time. They are well known for making it a point to connect with each and every fan, even going so far as to travel to the next town just to do private shows for under age fans unable to get into a venue. Jared & The Mill invite their audience to enjoy time spent with them as if they were family members. Now they are ready to spread their inspiring sound to the rest of the Western United States.

“Our band will be reaching as far East as Austin, Texas and as far North as Seattle, WA, this will be our longest adventure to date and we couldn’t be more excited to share our tunes with the rest of our great western family,” said singer/songwriter Jared Kolesar. “We have every intention to make this our most successful endeavor and will certainly be rehearsing violently until we ship off. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the great west has to offer, see you on the road!”  The rest of the West should be just as excited to find out what Jared & The Mill have to offer them this Fall. Western Expansion will be released tomorrow, September 17th with a release party at the Sail Inn September 19th with support from The Senators, Sara Robinson & The Midnight Special, Decker, Stellacutta, Huckleberry, Northern Hustle, Old Hours and Judson Claiborne.