By Matt Wickstrom
PRESTONSBURG, Ky. — Following in the footsteps of fellow Eastern Kentucky wordsmiths Chris Stapleton and Tyler Childers, Nicholas Jamerson has announced the release of his new album The Wild Frontier on April 20, 2020 via The Bingo Shack.
The album was produced at MIMUS Studios in Winder, Georgia, with Levi Lowrey, an area musician and composer best known for his work with the Zac Brown Band.
Joining Jamerson throughout The Wild Frontier are backing band The Morning Jays comprised of Wes Smith (acoustic/electric guitar, keys, mandolin), Aaron Smith (fiddle, mandolin), Jordan Allen (bass), Thomas Albert (pedal steel, electric guitar) and Lawrence Nemenz (percussion). Also included are spot appearances from brother Joby Jamerson, Lowrey, Benji Shanks, Mark Stephens, Matt Meneffee and Emily Davis.
“I think this is my best performance from a vocal standpoint,” said Jamerson. “I feel like I’ve learned to relax a lot more in my waking life and it has translated into my singing. For the longest time I would go into the studio and sing as hard as I could. I thought the harder you sang the more people would feel it.”
After busting out three albums relatively quickly since stepping away from country duo Sundy Best Jamerson opted to slow down the process for The Wild Frontier, moving away from a headspace of writing about direct life experiences to writing a conceptual story based on the fictional character “Will of the Wild Frontier,” visualized by the cowboy riding riding on top of a giant rabbit on the album’s cover. The album follow’s Will’s battle to govern and discipline himself in his journey through a Wild Frontier full of conflict.
“The concept of the record came to me after I read a passage in a copy of Told By Uncle Remus a friend gave me,” said Jamerson. “The line was ‘Sometimes we just need to hear a story to forget we were frightened.’ It made me think of times my grandfather had distracted me with random stories when I was upset about something trivial as a child. So I thought about how true that was. Sometimes we just need or want to be distracted from our waking life.”
The vision led to Jamerson penning “Brother Rabbit,” a song about two brother rabbits struggling to survive in a world of dogs and constant hunger. One rabbit gets taken in by a stranger named Mary who names him King and fattens him up, feeding him enough for two. The story ends by King leaving his home of comfort and rejoining his brother Duke in wild only to meet his untimely demise in the jaws of a big black dog due to his inability to escape as a result of his time in the laps of luxury.
A song about gluttony, “Brother Rabbit” got Jamerson thinking about the seven deadly sins – pride, lust, wrath, envy, sloth, greed and gluttony – loosely basing songs based on those themes and how they fit into in his own life. Additionally, Jamerson tied in songs based on the seven virtues – diligence, justice, courage, charity, kindness, prudence and fortitude – to make up the album’s 14 new tracks.
Fans of Jamerson will recognize a few of the tracks on the album including the aforementioned “Brother Rabbit” along with “Linda James,” about a member of Jamerson’s small community in Eastern Kentucky he held dear that recently passed away; and “Feather Bed,” a story about a husband and wife struggling to get by after the nearby coal mine closes up that decide to start selling dime bags of weed to everyone they know and stuffing the money they earn into an old feather bed.
The album begins with “Ride,” a lonesome tale that introduces listeners to Will of The Wild Frontier, who is fighting off notions of laziness and complacency by beginning his journey to pursue his heart’s biggest dreams (“Straight into the sun is a good place to start / It’s amazing what’s created when you follow the heart”).
The high-strung “Getting Better” documents Will’s battle to keep his benevolence in spite of the Wild Frontier’s love affair with money and greed (“I used to put my pennies in a band aid box / two dollar bills in the sock drawer / I was spending all my money like it was funny / I wanted to laugh a little more”) before later coming to a crossroads on “Gambler,” a chapter where his courage is tested as he looks back on his past and forward at dreams of a satisfying future, wondering if he made the right decision in embarking on his journey.
After questioning himself on “Gambler,” Will has a near death experience on “We Are” after being caught in a terrible thunderstorm. With his life flashing before his eyes a green flame appears, bringing an epiphany upon Will and with it the peace of mind he long desired.
With his mind at ease and the storm passed, Mother Nature visits Will on “Mother,” a story illustrating the power of Mother Nature and motherhood and the sacrifices, strength and perseverance it takes to grow and raise a child (“Oh Mother / Goddess of the sky / You and my father / Gave me these eyes / You’re a good shepherd / Tending to your flock / You raised well-behaved / You yielded good stock”). The album reaches its harmonious conclusion on title track “The Wild Frontier,” which touches on a memory of an old friend that helped Will through a particularly dark night on the Wild Frontier.
Sprinkled among the album’s 14 new tracks are excerpts and a monologue that help set the stage and curate and experience for the listener, something Jamerson sought out to do for the project.
“I believe the songs themselves are cinematic in nature so I wanted to add these audio elements that put a scene in the listeners head, like a musical movie,” said Jamerson. “I’ve been calling it a ‘cosmic melo-drama.’”Jamerson will be hitting the road extensively to support The Wild Frontier. A full itinerary of tour dates can be found below, with several more to be announced soon.
Nicholas Jamerson On Tour:
1/30 – The Southgate House Revival – Newport, KY ^
1/31 – Steiner’s Speakeasy – Chillicothe, OH
2/1 – V Club – Huntington, WV ^*
2/7 – Red Clay Music Foundry – Duluth, GA %
2/8 – Roasting Room Lounge & Listening Room – Bluffton, SC %
2/21 – Water Main – Richmond, KY
2/24 – The Basement – Nashville, TN
2/29 – Private Party – Midland, TX
3/6-8 – Summit City – Whitesburg, KY #
3/19 – Showmass Village – Showmass, CO
3/20 – Berthound Brewing – Berthound, CO
3/21 – 5030 Local – Loveland, CO
3/22 – The Laughing Goat – Boulder, CO
3/26 – Rose Music Hall – Columbia, MO
3/27 – TBD – Kansas City, MO
3/28 – Mercury Lounge – Tulsa, OK
4/2 – Pickin in the Pines – Manchester, KY
4/4 – Baysos – Grayson, KY
4/17 – Appalachian Center for the Arts – Pikeville, KY
5/1 – State Line Music Festival – Shelby, N.C.
5/2 – Knott County Trail Ride – Leburn, KY
5/7 – Zanzabar – Louisville, KY
5/8 – J.D. Legends – Franklin, OH
5/9 – The Burl – Lexington, KY
5/27 – Duke’s – Indianapolis, IN
5/28 – Carol’s Pub – Chicago, IL
6/13 – The Burnt Rock Stage @ Hidden Ridge – Monticello, KY
7/17-18 – Master Musicians Festival – Somerset, KY
^ with Brother Smith
* with Ally Fletcher
% with Levi Lowrey
# Jamerson Family Weekend