The Hopeful and the Unafraid (KLP189)
The Hopeful was made at Soma Studios in Chicago, on a two-day tour break in January of 2006. Recorded in a matter of hours—tracking the vocals, guitars, and drums simultaneously—Jason's goal was to make an organic documentation of songs he'd been playing every night for half a decade. Thusly, all the vocal parts are first takes. There were some indulgences, though, as some guys who used to play in Magnolia Electric Co. came by to put down pedal steel and guitar leads.
The album takes a stab at capturing some of the energy Jason loves putting into every show he plays, whether there are five or fifty people present. For the most part it succeeds, but to say that these are the "definitive" or "final" or "best" versions of these songs would be unrealistic, it would be straight-up false, actually. Jason says he's come to grips with the fact that it can never be just the way he wants in the studio; that the passionate, in-the-moment rush of doing these tunes in a basement full of singing, sweating friends is where his affection really lies. This is a bittersweet notion, but maybe explains why someone would spend half a decade on the road, trying to connect with people anywhere and everywhere, wanting to make them happy, to make them feel alive.