The Great Lands’ 1400 Piedmont
The Great Lands’ 1400 Piedmont calls upon a wide variety of musical influences. It is the usual cast of characters, without a doubt, but Jordan Asher Armstrong and his Atlanta, Georgia-based project tell his story in his own words and music rather than copping too much reflected glory. The five track EP has a pending follow-up of the same length set to land in the near future but there’s no doubt, even if I have yet to hear the second release, that 1400 Piedmont has value as either a standalone or connected collection.
The unity of the EP is impossible to ignore. What I mean by unity is that a shared thread of sound binds each of the songs together and part of Armstrong’s distinctiveness as a songwriter lies in his ability to highlight subtle variations in that thread. We hear that in the first song “Down the Line”. It’s a title drenched in bluesy implications, abounding in songs from Texas small towns to the Mississippi Delta, but Armstrong whips up something his own.
The second song “Exactly Maybe Sometimes” doesn’t deviate entirely from the path laid out in the first track, but The Great Lands expands its scope. There’s more of an emphasis on dynamism, contrasting elements of “light” and “shadow”, rather than the blitzkrieg inclinations from the opener’s guitar. It’s an important change of pace. The songs’ words are universally top-notch but, ultimately, it’s his vocal pushing them over the top.
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You can hear that in “Jumper”. I love how the vocal follows the emotional path laid out by the music, working together with it, rather than juxtaposing his voice against the instruments. It makes for a more seamless experience hearing the song. “Jumper” also possesses the increasingly rare gift of being the sort of deceptively simple track you hear more in on each new play. It seems so simple on the surface but The Great Lands layers it with emotional gravitas that heightens the mood.
“Lonely Houses” has a little bit of everything going on in its lyrics. There are poetic twists, imaginative examples of cataloging, and the same scathing honesty marking the earlier songs. Lightening the guitar presentation gives it a different and kinder color than the more boisterous compositions. It isn’t for lack of passion, however. The vocal ranks among 1400 Piedmont’s finest moments.
“One More Night (Queen)” caps off the release with a white-hot burst of passion. The Great Lands summons up a storm of guitar pyrotechnics for the song’s first passages without ever sacrificing its musicality. I have a long-held belief that songs such as this, traced back far enough, are songs addressed to some kind of Muse figure and evolved into the modern love song. Jordan Asher Armstrong handles the genre as well as anyone performing today.
The second EP will solidify his position. It isn’t often I can write I’ve heard and reviewed someone I can say, with great confidence, will one day be enormously popular thanks to their music. That popularity builds each day and another release like The Great Lands’ 1400 Piedmont will bring them wider notice than they’ve ever known.