RECORD REVIEW FLASHBACK: Jasper Gate – Sunny Days & Fear

May 16, 2008

I’m going to start a new series today. Given that I have written so many reviews over the years, at least half of which were for publications that are no longer available online, I’m going to reprint some of the highlights. Today’s is of my old friends in Jaspergate. I loved their music so much that I eventually asked them to join my own band. Patrick ended up being responsible for a large part of the lead guitar work on A Story to Cling To. He’s awesome.


Patrick and Dawn Davis, the creative and musical core of Jasper Gate, are no strangers to their trade. Patrick, a local guitar instructor and a DJ for NPR, graduated from UGA with a degree in music, and can be heard playing on such productions as MTV’s The Real World. His playing is professional and restrained, a far cry from the oft “wanking” of the young upstarts. Dawn, a local voice instructor and a part-time model, has been singing live for over 10 years. Since ’92 they have released two full-lengths CDs together, an unknown number of cassette EPs and songs for compilations, and have performed nationally with such varied acts as the Dead Milkmen and Sixpence None the Richer. Jasper Gate have been around the musical block a time or two, and it shows.

On Sunny Days…, unlike on their last full-length, Jasper Gate move the attention away from Patrick’s guitar proficiency and focus more, rather, on the songs themselves. The Michael Hedges influences are far less obvious – for better or worse – and in their place are sounds similar to middle-era Joni Mitchell (think “Free Man in Paris”), combined with the pop sensibilities of Out of the Grey and even, in places, the Carpenters.

Stand-out tracks are “Bittersweet”, where Patrick’s e-bow brings to mind the Over the Rhine song “Jacksie” – it has a strong vocal melody yet always remains just complex enough to keep it from falling under the “pop” label. “Maybe You Sometime” brings to mind mournful 60’s rock ballads and contains beautiful harmonies and counter melodies. Others notables are the title track, and “Everywhere”, which contains the c.d.’s most beautiful bridge. Overall, it’s a very good disc.

That said, while Sunny Days… shows significant improvement from their earlier work, and a clear development of their sound, it’s not perfect. A couple of times the drums sound a little stiff, and the pacing of the c.d. towards the end can be a bit jolting – it just doesn’t flow as well as it might. Adding a couple of songs, and reordering them might have helped this.

In spite of this criticism, however, Jasper Gate sound like nothing else available on the Athens, GA, music scene, and Sunny Days… still stands as a breath of fresh air from the norm.


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