Josh Haden’s Spain premieres all-new ‘Sargent Place’ with family in mind

Josh Haden’s Spain has been the worst-kept secret amongst discriminating music fans and post-millennials in L.A. and everywhere else. For close to 20 years, the vocalist/bassist/composer’s been keeping the dream world alive in subterranean, subconscious music that sinks into the core — beneath reason and pretense, into everyone’s universal language.

 

The talented son of the jazz double-bassist, Charlie Haden, Josh derived a key component of inspiration from family in the devising of this November 4th release. With the helping hand of producer Gus Seyffert (The Black Keys, Norah Jones, Beck) in his famous Sargent Place — hence the album title — studio in L.A.’s Elysian Park, Spain pulled out pieces of alternative debris underscoring the musical Haden family legacy.

 

From father to son, and sister to brother, Haden opened himself up to his most realized dream yet. The fifth record in Spain’s repertoire, Haden brought in his Soul Of Spain band — Randy Kirk (keys, guitar), Matt Mayhall (drums), Daniel Brummel (lead guitar) — for all the latest original material. Only three songs off this album (“Waking Song,” “Love At First Sight,” “It Could Be Heaven”) came from the past. The rest happened organically as the record took shape.

Haden wrote “You & I” and “To Be A Man” with his late father close at hand. Charlie Haden can be heard on “You & I,” in a very special, almost last-minute rearrangement c/o producer Seyffert. Spain had already laid down the track when Seyffert intervened, suggesting he and Haden take another look. They wound up back at Charlie Haden’s home for the recording of the bass when the transformation took the dedication to a whole other level.

 

“It’s important to me that this is my dad’s last recording and I think it says a lot to his life and his love for his kids and what he has taught everybody over the years…about how to treat each other and how to interact and view each other and view the world,” Haden described in a press release.

 

While the song clearly has father and son written all over the tender consideration, soft enfolding bass and guitar — cradling melody in a tumbler — anyone can derive similar comfort in other generations: a mother sick with worry about her suddenly-ailing son, lovers forced to part due to impossible circumstances, a best friend learning to let go in a horrible break-up. By touching on the warmly infiltrative spirit of his father, Haden also touched everyone else on this planet struggling with the same terms.

 

Haden leans on his sisters, Petra, Tanya, and Rachel for the movement not just in “The Fighter,” but the sound of the band from its 1990s formation. He recently began writing songs on his sister Rachel’s acoustic guitar, including “The Fighter” in its initial stages. His other sister Petra, who is a musical world unto herself as a thriving, multi-genre cellist, sings back-up and plays strings. (She comes back on the countrified bandit, “From The Dust,” too.)

“The Fighter” is Spain’s most literary recall, a story within the vibe — most different from most of the dream soundtrack in the band’s history. Tangled in chords, strings, and inner voices, Haden taps into a country-jazz-Latin hybrid that seems at the base of his musical influences. Nothing’s firmly country or jazz or Spanish; Haden’s gift is giving the bare essence, or swiping at the gist of the mood evoked in such styles. In this, his most ponderous piece, he tries to shape his voice as a circular instrument while telling a story about a ferocious boxer bowed down by the helplessness of yearning love.

 

With Spain, vocal worth takes a backseat to the vibe of the ethereal confluence of a shimmering blanket of music and what Haden does on his bass and with his voice in response to feeling the notes through a translator in his mind and his heart. “She Haunts My Dreams” lyrically doesn’t say much, other than leaving rather simple poetry on repeat. But it’s three minutes of sheer pop bliss, leaving the listener tragically, magically in love, as if the shimmering music left dust trails against the skin through the speakers.

 

 

Spain’s new album Sargent Place is the first North American release off Toronto’s Dine Alone Records. It’s also the first album released in the U.S. for the band in over a decade. Last week, NPR/WXPN and Magnet Magazine premiered the album and the music video for “Love At First Sight,” respectively. Josh Haden’s Spain plays L.A.’s Amoeba Music Hollywood on 6400 Sunset Blvd. this Thursday, 6 p.m. Look for more CD release shows in L.A., New York City, and elsewhere now through early next year.

Carol Banks Weber