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Heiskell
Clip-On Nose Ring
(self-released)
www.heiskellmusic.com


There are a few points which the casual observer should note about Jeff Heiskell:
1. Jeff Heiskell was the frontman of (and possibly the soul behind) the early 90's college rock wonderband The Judybats.
2. Clip-On Nose Ring is Heiskell's second "solo" release since The Judybats went missing sometime around 1995.
3. Jeff Heiskell doesn't beat around the bush. The man tells it like he sees it, straight up.
4. Jeff Heiskell's got a dark, dark soul.
5. Jeff Heiskell surrounds himself with some mighty fine musicians.

Keeping these fine points in mind, it is no surprise that Clip-On Nose Ring is a wonderful collection of songs. The album flows seamlessly between genres, skipping lithely between the iconoclastic college rock of songs like "I Want The World To Change" and semi-ridiculous joke rock like "The Chubby Guy Song". Jeff Heiskell's lyrics still stand as the strongest part of his music, as he turns his pen inward to espouse the things that are more important to him in a more straightforward style than ever before. His brilliant melodies are still extent, but his lyrics have taken a bit of a turn from more obscure references to simply stating, in a decidedly poetic manner, how he feels about everyday challenges that face him… and you. "I Want The World To Change" is simply a somewhat selfish plea for the world to accept difference and revel in that acceptance. "Helluva Summer" begins in rocking fashion, reminding me of The Vapor's "Trains" in rhythm and tone as it tells the story of summer love gone missing, or awry, or whatever. The love song is not neglected as Heiskell bounds tirelessly through the glittering rock of songs like "Everdear", but most of these songs have the bitter darkness that we've come to expect from Jeff's lyrics. As the light melodies barrel through their songs, careful attention shows that Heiskell isn't so much singing about love as it goes on, but laying down funeral dirges for good love gone bad, or simply gone. The gritty alt. rock of "Still A Place" is about as dark as the music gets, ably conveying the spirit of the lyrics, until Jeff sidesteps into country territory with his very dark cover of the Dolly Parton classic "Jolene". As Jeff tackles his first real foray into the country music realm, he takes complete ownership of the song, darkening the lyric even more as he turns his normally joyous voice into an ominous haunting scrape. Heiskell slows the tempo, relies musically on dirgey drumming and acoustic guitar offset with some great simple banjo (!!) rolls that really set the mood for the song.

Clip-On Nose Ring finds Heiskell walking the familiar ground of dark songs with bright music that his fans have come to expect from him. But in addition to the poppy music and tongue in cheek lyrical sense that he's always brought to the table, Jeff has also taken the time to stretch his sound, incorporating more folk elements, and the darker sides of country music. The sum of these seemingly disparate parts is far greater than anything Jeff has ever created before. Clip-On Nose Ring shows that Heiskell has grown as a person, while becoming more comfortable telling the world his innermost personal reflections and battles, all the while taking a few musical chances and coming out a winner in the game.

-David DeVoe

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