The final version of Aaron Lee Tasjan’s “Heart Slows Down” was a long time coming. Available here as an exclusive free download, the song was initially written with 12-string guitar in mind for Tasjan’s 2016 release, Silver Tears. But it wasn’t until recording was well underway for the new Karma For Cheap (New West) that the tune found its legs with the propulsive strumming of an acoustic guitar.
It was worth the wait. With its offhanded catchiness and shambling chorus, “Heart Slows Down” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Tom Petty solo album. Its excellence bodes well for the rest of Karma, which sheds the Americana trappings Tasjan co-opted to coincide with his move from Brooklyn to East Nashville. In it’s place is a slightly off-kilter power-pop/folk-rock hybrid that properly pays it’s respects to the Petty/Jeff Lynne tandem, the Beatles and a handful of Tasjan’s earliest influences as a young kid growing up in Ohio.
“In my world, acts like the Raspberries, Cheap Trick and Dwight Twilley are my roots music,” says Tasjan. “That’s why a gravitated toward rock bands in New York. I think I made rootsier music when I got to Nashville really just to try and fit in.”
In the years prior to his solo turn, the gifted guitarist’s work with edgy glam-pop outfit Semi Precious Weapons and as a sideman for the likes of Everest, Drivin’ N Cryin’ and the New York Dolls paid the bills and established connections that would come in handy when he ventured out on his own. There’s also Tasjan’s flukey affiliation with Sheryl Crow, which began when she heard Silver Tears’ “Little Movies” in a Starbucks. That led to an opening slot for a series of Crow performances, along with an invitation to use her Brentwood, Tenn., studio. Some of those sessions found their way onto Karma.
The album was co-produced by Tasjan, award-winning Crow collaborator Jeff Trott and Gregory Lattimer (Albert Hammond Jr.), and it features his touring band: bassist Tommy Scifres, drummer Seth Earnest and guitarist Brian Wright (a respected singer/songwriter in his own right). “I went in expecting the worst-case scenario, but it’s been exciting—I enjoy the challenge,” says Tasjan of his relatively new role as frontman. “Brian is so magnetic onstage, and he’s a great reference point for me. He’s been great at saying, ‘Man, you’re overthinking it. It’s not gonna work every time.”
Karma For Cheap is available on all downloading and streaming services. Check out tour dates here.