Jason Turner strums the acoustic guitar in his lap as comfortably and casually as some stroke the ears of their best dog.
The Jason Turner Band's high octane performances have been lighting up the stages of Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Alabama since 1997, and show no signs of slowing down. Wearing their influences on their sleeves, their sound channels the blues rock of the Black Crowes and Stevie Ray Vaughn with the fist pumping intensity of Pearl Jam, and the singer songwriter earnestness of Ryan Adams and John Mayer. Playing over 200 shows a year the Jason Turner Band have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with such national acts as Violent Femmes, Robert Randolf and the family band, Blessid Union of Souls, Tantric, Crossfade, Josh Kelly, Crossin Dixon, Autovaughn, Jeremy Lister, and Ingram Hill.
?Storytelling,? is the word he pulls out for his music, a prolific batch of songs that also fit under a broader Americana umbrella, gathering up alt-country leanings and touches of blues and rock.
?You can?t grow up around here without having all that in you,? says Turner, 31, a Jackson-born singer-songer who draws from the blues and gospel from his mom?s job at Malaco, country concerts neighbors took him to and 1990s grunge rock.
?I think that?s part of Mississippi, all the artists here. ? Even if you?re looking at Wyatt Waters? pictures, you can feel and see where you are. I think the songs are like from here, too.?
Songs draw on experiences and observations.
?I would say it?s music that?s just honest,? he says of the auto-bio bent.
What Turner considers his debut CD, the self-released 13 Years, pays homage to his band?s age - a ripe one considering ?as much music as we?ve written,? he says. ?It?s kind of like saying, ?Finally.? He doesn?t count a CD he put out at 17 (?my voice sounded like Stevie Nicks, it was so high?).
The CD release party is Friday at Hal & Mal?s. In addition to Turner (guitar/vocals), there?s Jay Wadsworth (pedal steel), Matt Newman (drums), Adam Perry (bass) and Charlie Townsend (guitar).
The Jason Turner Band got its start at the 1997 Jubilee!JAM, following a couple years of Turner?s acoustic playing around town.
When bandmates moved on, Turner relocated to Nashville in 2004.
?I loved it in Nashville, did fine up there. Just, I was young,? newly married, with no plan or stash of savings. He spent most of the time working to make money to make music, he says, such as in his country band Wayward Jackson.
?I just got broke right quick, and had to come back,? he says, burning out on the hand-shaking and posturing in the music scene there but counting it as a good learning experience.
?I?m used to being the guy who just goes and plays music, you know?? he says. ?As much as I love music, I almost quit music for a while, the last couple of months I lived in Nashville. I just didn?t touch my guitar or anything.?
He moved back to Mississippi in 2008; Hal & Mal?s asked him to come play and acoustic. ?Of course, the second I played one night, I was back on 100 percent.
?That?s why I?m having my CD release party there. It just kind of feels like home here.?
Touring through Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida follows, with points north after that.
Turner?s music ?speaks a little more to a Southern experience without being stereotypically Southern,? says Tom Beck, whose Beck Photographic did the CD?s art. ?When I listen to Jason, I can see country roads but I don?t see kudzu.?
Eric Brown, who?s known Turner since they were teens, recognizes the rock ?n? roll they knew growing up in Turner?s music. ?The great thing about it is, he does a good job of not changing what he does over time, but growing as an artist overall.?
Charly Abraham, former manager at Hal & Mal?s and now teaching at Delta State University?s Delta Music Institute, notes Turner?s musical explorations over the years, solo and with different bands, working toward the right fit.
?Everything he does is quality material. It hasn?t all been exceedingly popular,? Abraham says. ?He has worked really, really hard on this CD. ? I?m really looking forward to the opportunity to hear it.?
Hotter Than the Sun and Friends I Used to Know explore relationship changes while Tonight is a sweetheart?s promise. Nothingtown delves into small-town frustrations.
Too Old Now is the song of a dreamer.
?It?s almost like an apology to somebody, or an explanation for someone?s life ? the things that they?ve done or haven?t done and then ?but I?m too old now to stop dreaming my life away.? Like, well, I?m all in now,? he says, chuckling.
?The only thing I feel right doing is playing a guitar and singing.?
Hotter Than The Sun
Stranger Take Me Home
Too Old Now