Jon Byrd (from the album Route 41)
Jon Byrd made the trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee well over a decade ago. Jon links the two cities using the path he took north to Nashville with Route 41, his recent release of songs collected on the journeys and in the bars frequented by traveling musicians. His original idea for a tribute was albums that other players dedicated to friends, sort of a ‘Willie does Waylon’ with songs that Jon Byrd heard from the audience or as part of the songwriter circles that introduced him to other singer/songwriters as well as to the audio attachments and achievements of the musicians he has come to call friends. Jon Byrd staged the back story for Route 41 with his recollections of his own travels. ‘This recording is in part a reflection of my journey up Route 41 from Atlanta to Nashville over a dozen years ago. On that trip I took some inspiring songwriters with me, or at least their songs. And of course met so many more when I arrived. A few of these writers weren't far behind me on their own journey up Route 41. Others traveled some other stretch that got them to Music City. Since I've been living with these particular songs longer than I can remember, I can pinpoint a release date, or studio date of each recording, though most of these songs I first heard in a live performance by the writer long before they were even recorded, some before they were actually finished. And of course, while I've only included ten songs, this recording could have easily been a triple album of amazing writers and songs. Some of these writers are still in Georgia, some I met in Nashville after they'd traveled their own highways to get here. And some Atlanta friends made the same Route 41 journey I did. The songs, the artists' performances, and the artists' sometimes varying interpretations of their own songs have all inspired me and challenged me to do more-- to do better. When I travel outside Nashville, I often tell folks that I can name a dozen stunningly great songwriters that you have most likely never heard of… because they have integrity.’
The musicians of Music City backed the tracks that went from Atlanta and Nashville on Route 41. Jon Byrd brought in Thomm Jutz as producer, sharing guitar work with Jon on the album as Fats Kaplin handled multiple strings with fiddle, mandolin, and pedal steel duties. Route 41 beings its odyssey with the same wit and wisdom that Jon Byrd samples in his songs as he covers a cut from Atlanta songwriter James Kelly with “George Jones (Has Never Sung About My Girl)”. Jon refers to the mood backing Atlanta-based Dave Marr and the Star Room Boys as ‘post-modern, post-southern’ for their tune “I’ll Play Angel” as he covers other Georgian ex-pats who followed the same route to Tennessee with songs from Adam Wright (“Would You Like to Dance”) and co-writes Adam did with his wife Shannon (“Knew All Along”) as he honors a personal inspiration for write what you feel songs with a cut from Greta Lee (“Walk on By”). Route 41 sips from the well of songwriters Peter Cooper and Baker Maultsby with “Wine”, takes a shine to a track from Chris Richard in “Brilliantine”, and aims for Country Folk on Al Shelton’s “Just Another Gun”. While songwriters offered their words and music for Route 41, they find that the trade-off is hearing their creations given a new life with the warmth found in the vocal delivery of Jon Byrd. Proving that cultures can collide with good results, Route 41 pairs Texas with Alabama in a version of the Mando Saenz and Will Kimbrough cut “In the Back of Your Mind” as Jon Byrd gathers with fellow Alabama family members Davis Raines and Pamela Jackson as they travel back home in their memories in “Going to Montgomery”.
Time away from his own tunes in the recording studio has given Jon Byrd the ability to collect tracks an upcoming release. Celebrating the tenth anniversary of the debut from Byrd’s Auto Parts, a new album from the band can be expected in May of 2017, featuring tracks from Jon that have already become old friends for fans such as “Silent Night” and “If Texas is So Great”.