Essential New Music: Jason Wilber’s “Reaction Time”

The inescapable bullet point in Jason Wilber’s curriculum vitae is his long, productive stint as John Prine’s guitarist, but you won’t hear his boss’ off-kilter humor in his solo work. Perhaps a better source of Wilber’s personal inspirations lies in the title of his defunct syndicated public radio show: In Search Of A Song. There’s a sweet, aching melancholy at the heart of Wilber’s eighth solo album, the kind of pulled heart muscle twinge that results from the physical and emotional safaris we embark upon to find the things we’ve lost or hope to find: love, youth, enlightenment, redemption, direction. In Wilber’s capable hands, that search bears the unmistakable signs of Bob Dylan’s linguistic prowess (“When The Good Old Days Are Gone”), Iain Matthews’ contemporary folk sophistication (“I’d Love Another Saturday Night”), the late, great Bob Welch’s smooth pop stylings (“Love Me Now”) and touches of Father John Misty sans the acid-washed convolution (“Jealousy And Envy”). Wilber has clearly learned much during his 21-year tenure with Prine, but he’s proven to be an impressive teacher in his own right.

Brian Baker