The Sad Lights
Available at the Drums & Wires BandCamp store for streaming and digital download in MP3, FLAC, ALAC (Apple Lossless), AAC, Ogg Vorbis, WAV and AIFF formats.
In the early ‘20s Jon Hyde started a songwriting club, a small group of songwriters he admired, and he posed a challenge: write a new song every week. No vacations, no excuses, just keep writing. Some weeks you’d get a complete song, a recording even – some weeks you’d turn in a thought or an improvisation, but you never ever showed up empty-handed. Then Covid hit and song club became a lifeline for Jon, a way to stay connected with his community, a way to put his focus on something positive as the world we knew closed in on us all.
“I’m lucky. Song club was a perfect activity for a person trapped in a house with a built-in recording studio. Someone who has all the instruments and knows how to play them. We kept the club going for a couple years and I amassed something like 130 or so songs.”
Fast forward to 2024 and we're proud to be sharing The Sad Lights, Jon's first solo outing since his wonderful Tipple released in 2007. Nods to some of Jon’s music heroes can be found in the set, from the acerbic wit of Elvis Costello to the melancholic Americana of the Jayhawks, and from the classic country swoon of George Jones to the infectious pop of the Beatles. But Jon’s tunes are not overshadowed by their influences; every song on The Sad Lights lives within it's own musical and lyrical landscape, with Jon’s voice, and his originality, rooted firmly in the center.
Many of the songs found on The Sad Lights were written in a world where musicians found community through technology, for good and for bad. Songs that explored where we found ourselves during the depths of a pandemic, but also where we had been before our lives were turned upside down. Songs about embracing and rejecting the darkness all at the same time. Without much effort you’ll even find some political commentary in these tracks.
“When we started song club, I was writing for my country band 1 Uppers. Songs where familiarity was primary. Recognizable chord changes, stories that told themselves and didn’t require much interpretation. Song club brought me back to a way of writing that doesn’t tell the listener the whole story, that leaves room for them to make their own decisions about what a song might mean to them.”
On most of these songs Jon sang and played all the instruments. Because, like us all, he was confined to his home, his session musicians became his family, they were literally his family. Jon’s daughter Virginia is a primary player here and can be heard singing on many of the tracks. Jon’s old friend and collaborator Bruce Wirth (The Walkabouts, Glimmer) brought a lot of ideas and helped breathe life into the songs. Other contributors, like Jon’s 1 Uppers bandmate Kris Geren, sent tracks from their own home studios and Jon folded them in, as he did on the song “Every South Wilson.”
“Now that we’re able to play shows again, I’ve put together a new band and three of the songs - “I Don’t,” “Velvet Shirt” and the title track “The Sad Lights” - were recorded live with the band and later finished at my studio with overdubs, etc.”
In the early aughts Jon put out three records under his own name – the aforementioned Tipple, Blair, and Yellow Light - but after a while he was drawn to playing on other artists’ projects. Artists such as Laura Veirs, Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter, The Walkabouts, Karl Blau and many others. He eventually created 1 Uppers to focus on being a pedal steel guitar player (a damn good one if we say so ourselves), while staying committed to being a songwriter. Song club inspired him to stretch himself. Song club gave Jon the impetus to make a new record.
We’re mighty pleased that Jon started song club and rediscovered his love of writing and recording his own material. Sit back and listen to The Sad Lights and we’re pretty sure you’ll feel the same.