Like Betamax in the ’80s, or for a more recent example, the decline of HD DVD as the preferred platform for high-definition DVD watching, I present to you the 8-track, yet another media format that’s gone the way of … well, the 8-track. Though it has a cult following among hard-core record collectors, that little plastic rectangle is now a relic of the ’70s. You can usually find boxes of them at yard sales for a dollar. And technology marches on.
And yet, if it were not for the humble 8-track, Portland songwriter Jason Spooner might never have picked up a guitar in high school and started making music.
“I grew up with a nice collection of music. My father’s 8-tracks were where I got started,” said Spooner, who will play on Thursday, April 10, at the Alamo Theatre in Bucksport. “He had all the classic ’70s songwriter stuff. Paul Simon, Neil Young, Jim Croce. I loved stuff liked that. I still do. We’d dance around in the living room, and he had this cool stereo that looked like a credenza. You popped it open, and there was the 8-track.”
Those formative years proved fruitful, as Spooner, inspired by those accessible yet complex artists, began making music while he attended the Taft School for the Arts in Watertown, Conn., a school that nurtured talents such as Trey Anastasio of Phish and Adam Duritz from Counting Crows. Spooner attended Colby College post-high school, and he has stuck around in Maine ever since, finessing his groovy, thoughtful songs and playing live with his ace two-man rhythm section, composed of Andy Rice and Reed Chambers.
Spooner released ?Lost Houses? in 2002, an album he wrote most of while living in a cabin on Lake Megunticook in Camden. In late 2007, he came out with ?The Flame You Follow,? which reflects where Spooner has been in the five years since the first album.
?The title track sonically encapsulates what we did with the record,? said Spooner. ?The first record was really a solo record. Fast forward through four to five years of touring, and putting together a sound. That?s where we?re at now. It?s a band sound. We were trying to make a statement about where we were headed musically.?
Spooner?s songs, like his heroes Paul Simon and Neil Young, walk a line between pop hooks and heady lyricism.
?I like the cerebral stuff, that has a point and a complexity,? he said. ?I like the stuff that?s closer to poetry. I discovered Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits in high school, and they really inspired me. Musically, it?s a hodgepodge. I?d say it?s contemporary songwriter stuff, but we bring in elements of blues and Americana, and pop.?
?The Flame You Follow? has slowly made inroads into national radio, and in recent months especially has picked up steam, thanks to the single ?Black and Blue? holding steady on the AAA commercial radio charts (in between Ingrid Michaelson and Radiohead, no less) and a recent in-studio performance on XM Satellite Radio?s The Loft XM-50.
Right now, he?s nominated in the Portland Phoenix Best Music Poll for Best Singer-Songwriter. And he?s still beating the pavement with Rice and Chambers. The Bucksport show next week, along with the accompanying studio performance on WERU 89.9-FM at noon the day of the show, is a bit of a homecoming, after the year he spent living in the midcoast area.
?I don?t get up to that part of the state as often as I used to, which is a shame,? said Spooner. ?WERU has been a big supporter of us. I take almost every opportunity I can to come East.?
The Jason Spooner Band will play at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 10, at the Alamo Theatre in Bucksport, as part of the Over the Bridge concert series. Tickets are $12 at BookStacks on Main Street in Bucksport, or $15 at the door. For more information, visit www.jasonspooner.com.