ALBUM: Silhouettes and Sand
ARTIST: Tossing Copper
Album release date: November 2, 2015
Searching for the Bridegroom
A friend wrote to me one day and mentioned the artist Tossing Copper, saying he had found him on Noisetrade and couldn’t get his song The Bridegroom out of his head. Since I’m always on the lookout for good music (and eager for suggestions), I sat down one morning and listened to every song I could find. Now, two days later, I find myself steeped in his voice and his thoughts, and anxious to share his goodness with others.
Tossing Copper is the moniker of Jake Scott, who hails from Fayetteville, Arkansas. In the only interview I could find of him, he tells of how he grew up in a devout home but didn’t actually have any personal investment or interest in religion or God beyond fulfilling family expectations. “I had [God] as a concept – not as a reality.” Throughout highschool a gnawing sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction drove him to seek meaning and solace in sports and popularity, and when those things didn’t quench him he turned to relationships and girls. “I thought that would be the end-all. I put everything I had into [these pursuits], and I made [the obtainment of a girlfriend] my god. I worshipped that. When that ended, my whole world fell apart, because I’d put all of my hope and trust in that. It left me emptier than ever before.” By the time his senior year came around, the darkness and emptiness of life drove him to his knees and for the first time he cried out to God as though he might exist. This was the turning point for him, and soon thereafter Scott’s first song, Truth Be Told (which was featured on his EP), arose out of this experience.
Powerful & Needful
The first song I listened to of Jake Scott’s was a live performance of Truth be Told, wherein he strums on a banjo and alternatively plays the harmonica, while singing a self-flagellating song about rationalizing his vices. I was moved by a purity and sincerity that somehow came through in his facial expression, his stance, and his overall performance. The warmth and richness of his voice reminded me of both Dave Barnes and Ben Rector, and his handling of both instruments was adroit. I was certainly impressed by what I saw and heard. What I didn’t recognize upon those first listens was just how quietly powerful and needful this young man’s body of work is as a whole.
Silhouettes & Sand was released on November 2, 2015. It features nine original tracks, all well-produced and styled in a country/folk vein, and contains both introspective melodies as well as a handful of more rhythmic, alternative rock tunes (ala Mumford & Sons, Phillip Phillips, et al). Acoustic and steel guitar, banjo, mandolin, strings, the occasional bout of footstomping and handclapping, and a touch of piano piano support Scott’s strong vocals and straightforward song structures. While the first listen might not strike one as being remarkable, a certain unassuming weightiness hints at more to be discovered.
Unassuming & Noble
These are thoughtfully crafted, simple songs that deal with some hefty themes. On a handful of songs a certain formality seems to stand between the heart of Tossing Copper and those of us who listen, but he affords us enough glimpses of a depth and maturity for us to know that there is more pain, humanity, triumph, and complexity in him than always meets the eye (or ear, in this case). I got the sense that he has purposefully restrained himself from being too vulnerable or self-referential in this particular collection of songs, perhaps out of a desire to inspire introspection and self-awareness in others: but again, there are moments where a surprising rawness and sadness comes through, balancing out the moments where things sound shrink-wrapped or confected (I’m referring to the songs that tread a little too predictably into Mumford territory).
In the song Edge of Eden, he takes the collective heart of postlapsarian man into himself and writes from a place of brokenness, shame, and conversion. An ashamed highschool boy, the prodigal son, a good man who’s made mistakes: all could find solace here – “There’s a field of gold, there’s a silver river – there’s a place I know, and I left it all behind. Chasing every high, chasing sirens singing, I fell for every lie. Tears taste bitter, fools gold glitters, and now I curse my eyes. I have been a blind fool, wasting all You gave till all that’s left is sorrow, breaking both my shoulders – I’d give anything to start over. Till then I’ll be here, standing at the edge of Eden.”
Another song that surprised me in its sincerity (though written from a cynical, “inside” perspective) was American Man, which paints a troubling picture of America’s idolatry of the machine, reducing man to a cog in a wheel and divesting him of genuine experiences of life and contemplation. It was curious to me that, while this addiction to activity is an ever-present reality that we’re all aware of, I hadn’t heard a song that captures the illness of it until now. It’s become taboo, conspiratorial, mellowdramatic, and a symptom of “entitlement” to speak out against the dehumanizing obsession with work-for-work’s sake that plagues Western culture and sabotages even the best families and marriages. “I’ve been seduced by my greed, and my mistress calling me. My fingers scratch ‘till they bleed…but don’t I deserve what makes me happy?”
I found in listening to Jake Scott’s previously released EP that he has an incredible gift for articulating very specific veins of the human experience – at times with brutal honesty and self-awareness (the songs Truth Be Told and The Mason throw unapologetic light on his own weaknesses, while maintaining a spirit of perseverance). While some of the tunes on this latest release come off as glib, unremarkable car songs, more of them illustrate this gift for revelation: The Bridegroom, Edge of Eden, American Man, and a reprise of The Mason are gold, and an attentive listen to each will prove worth your time – every time.