Almost a year ago to the day, I spoke with local singer Lisa Jason about a project she took part in to record a collaged, socially distanced version of the 1957 Patty Page tune “Old Cape Cod.” The project was the brainchild of Chatham's Tony Raine,general manager and head of production at the Cape Cod Melody Tent since 1994, who found himself thinking of ways to bring local musicians out of isolation and create a sense of unity during the lonely early days of the COVID-19 crisis. Raine reached out to musicians Cape-wide and beyond, asking them to record their own socially distanced versions of the song, and the rest is history.
One year later, I spoke again with Jason about another way music is bringing people together in spite of pandemic restrictions, and once again, Raine had a part to play. His contribution, back before the pandemic quite got a toehold on our lives, was to send Jason to a place called Muscle Shoals to meet some musicians who would change her life. That trip resulted in a song which is climbing the CDX, Nashville, Positive Country Chart, along with several recordings which feature brilliant and well-respected artists, all receiving rave reviews at Amazon, Apple Music, the CD Baby Store, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and all digital outlets.
Let's back up. How did this all start?
Back in February 2020, Jason, who grew up in Chatham, was living a singer's dream, recording one of her songs, “Can't Get There Without Love,” in Nashville. She returned to New York City afterwards, just in time to avoid a deadly tornado which wreaked havoc in Tennessee. The shock and relief of missing a catastrophe lasted only so long, however. COVID-19 was just starting to become a household word, and the subways and bustling sidewalks of the city suddenly didn't seem very safe either. As a dance movement therapist, Jason is always one to listen to her intuition, so when the idea of driving home to Cape Cod crossed her mind, she did exactly that.
“When I got here, friends helped find housing, and I gathered my daughters, Allie and Kayla-Rose, together,” Jason explained. “That was when Tony Raine called me and said I'd like to do a project to raise spirits and get musicians together. That was 'Old Cape Cod.'”
Years before, Raine had insisted that Jason visit Muscle Shoals, Ala., a little town on the bank of the Tennessee River which is legendary in the hearts of musicians. In this unlikely place, some of the biggest names in music history have recorded, including Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Etta James, and a famous group of session musicians called the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, better known as The Swampers. Raine arranged for Jason and her daughter, Allie, to visit famous Wishbone Studios, where they were able to meet several original Swampers, including Jimmy Johnson. Soon they crossed paths with songwriter and producer Jimmy Thrasher. Jason said they hit it off instantly, and before long they decided to write songs together.
“Tony Raine has always told me, when you get to Muscle Shoals, you'll get the feeling. You'll understand. It's just a vibe,” Jason said. “And he was right. There was a connection right away.”
Once that connection was made, it gained momentum which seemed to sweep up everyone who came into contact with it, resulting in a multi-state, long-distance collaboration. As Jason explained, she wrote the songs with her new songwriting partner, Thrasher, in Muscle Shoals, along with Luke Smith and her friend, colleague and musical director, Yaron Gershovsky, from the Manhattan Transfer.
“We had one of the original Swampers on bass, Bonnie Raitt's guitarist, and an up-and-coming drummer from Nashville on the recording. They recorded the track in Muscle Shoals,” Jason said. “Yaron recorded his track in New York, and added Dave Mann – who has worked with Sting, Paul Simon and The Eagles – on sax, who recorded in New York as well. We added famed backup singer Emily Bindiger as well, who also recorded in New York. I recorded my vocal here on the Cape with Jon Evans, and we sent everything back to Muscle Shoals to be mixed down there and released it.”
Jason describes the entire writing and recording project as an adventure, a way to connect and create in spite of COVID-19.
Once back on Cape Cod, Jason turned to some familiar local talent to record a music video for the new release she recorded back in Nashville.
“Kim Rodriques and Geoff Bassett filmed it,” Jason said. “We did it socially distanced in some beautiful parts of Chatham, and had the gift of using a local family in it, as well as my daughter Allie.”
The name of the song is "Can't Get There Without Love,” a message that Jason feels is important during the challenges of living through the pandemic. The song was released to radio three weeks ago down in Nashville, and is climbing the charts. Another new single, "Another Notch on Your Heart,” co-written by Jason, Thrasher and Gershovsky and recorded in New York, Muscle Shoals and Cape Cod, is now available on all digital outlets. The song features Gershovsky; David Hood from the original Swampers; Bonnie Raitt guitarist Will McFarlane; David Mann on sax; and Justin Holder on drums. The song was produced by Gershovsky, mixed and mastered by Grammy award winner Jimmy Nutt in Muscle Shoals. The vocals were recorded on Cape Cod with Jon Evans.
“It's been a wonderful experience, an interesting journey, and I wanted to share the story of all these people coming together to create music together even though we can't be together,” Jason said. “I hope to let people know that creativity and expression are still possible, even in a challenging time. I hope people will listen to the songs, and they will feel the beauty of connection and the power of the arts. That's my story.”
To listen to Lisa Jason's new songs “Another Notch on your Heart,” “Can't Get There Without Love,” “More to Say,” and more of her songs, visit YouTube.com and search for Lisa Jason-Topic. Her music can be found on Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, and all digital outlets.