Last night I fulfilled a dream of mine that’s been 8 years in the making. Let me explain, and although my explanation is a little long winded, trust me, I will get to the point eventually and it will become clear, I promise.
Years ago, there was a show on TV called ‘Angel’, and one of my favorite characters was a cold, amoral lawyer by the name of Lindsey McDonald. Lindsey was played by actor Christian Kane, who also had (and still has!) a band. An LA based friend of mine sent me the track, ‘Rattlesnake Smile’ from the first Kane album, back in 2001, and I was hooked.
I flew down to LA specifically to see them play, fell in love with Kane’s music of course, but more specifically with the amazing voice of one Steve Carlson, founder member of Kane.
When Steve put out his first album, ‘Spot in the Corner’ in 2003, I snapped it up gleefully. There are many tracks on that album that I love, but on in particular, ‘Come Around More, Alabama,’ especially resonated with me, because as well as the familiar honey and whisky gravel of Steve’s pretty voice, there was another – a second voice singing harmony, and I really, really wanted to hear more from that singer.
Time passed, and ‘Rollin’ On’ was released in 2005, and again there were harmonies, and again there was that voice, blending seamlessly with that of Jason Manns, to be heard, most especially on the wonderful ‘Hummingbird Billy’.
I soon found the album that had been released by the very wonderful Jason ‘Angel Voice’ Manns, but when I looked for any product from that other singer there was nothing to be found. That singer, of course, was Jensen Ackles.
I looked in vain for his music. It didn’t take me long to discover that he was in fact primarily an actor rather than a musician, and that really depressed me. I admit to falling a little in love with him when I finally saw him as Alec in ‘Dark Angel’, but there was still no music – nothing I could find beyond Steve’s albums, and a rather awful version of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ during which he sang the middle break, or at least a part of it.
Since then, of course, we’ve got Jason Manns to thank for his duet on ‘Crazy Love,’ and one notable impromptu rendition of ‘The Weight’ sung to the accompaniment of the shrieks of 1,200 or so fangirls, (and let me tell you that trying to remaster that from a YouTube clip so that one can actually listen to the voice is a daunting task! However, Jensen has never succumbed to my hypnotic vibes and simply burst into songs, and my pain is great.
At least, until last night, because last night I was finally privileged to hear Jensen sing. I don’t know quite what I was expecting to hear – perhaps I was anticipating country music – but whatever I thought he would sing, the actual event was so much more. The event was billed as ‘A Jam Session with Jensen and Jason,’ and as I’ve already said, I think their voices blend together really superbly, so I was very excited at the possibilities ahead.
About 30 of us were ushered into a small room to experience this event, and sat quivering with anticipation as first Jensen and then Jason filed in bearing guitars and glasses of whisky. He’d put on a white beanie, ‘so that he’d look more like a musician,’ he said. The two of them took their seats and we were off. Jensen apologized that he didn’t have any original materials for us. I don’t think any of us had expected any. I certainly didn’t. He also said that the price we’d paid to be present had made him think that the two of them should perhaps perform naked, but despite encouragement there was no further skin to be seen. I don’t feel cheated really, although I would definitely have applauded if he’d skinned down to his boxers! He explained his reluctance to burst into song at conventions saying that the cons are about Supernatural, but his music is about him and not the show. He also said that he’d worried about ‘performing’ for fans, but on reflection he didn’t have any problems singing in front of his mom, and she’s the biggest fangirl he’s got, so here we were.
And so to the set list. First up was a Ray LaMontaigne song, ‘Rock and Roll on the Radio.’ He has a sweet voice. It’s very versatile, with a range that runs smoothly from tenor through baritone without any straining, and which at need will roughen to a seductive rasp. I’m definitely smitten.
He began his song looking and sounding very diffident and nervous, but when we didn’t all throw things the first time he faltered on the lyrics he seemed to settle down, got his game on, and sang his heart out.
Next up was a mix of ‘Crazy Love’ and ‘The Weight’ – both songs we’ve heard him on before. The two of them traded verses, teased each other and harmonized as Jensen gained more confidence. Jason, who was incredibly supportive, confessed to being very nervous himself, and didn’t know why since he sings in public all the time. Jensen suggested he was catching it through the foot that was closest to him. “It’s rolling off me in waves,” he admitted.
‘If I had a Million’, the Al Green song, was next, and Jensen told us it was the first song he ever learned to play, under the mistaken assumption that it would make him a sure thing to get any chick he wanted. Frankly, I was puzzled that he would need such a prop, but it was great to hear it anyway. It was the one song I wasn’t familiar with, and I really liked it. Then came “She Talks to Angels,’ from The Black Crowes. Both men went to town with lots of guitar work and harmonies that were perfect for it. From there they got into the Leonard Cohen classic, ‘Hallelujah’, a song we’ve heard Jason sing on more than once occasion, and again they traded verses, added harmonies and brought the tears to my eyes.
“Sing some Skynyrd,” was called from the back – I believe it was Clif who yelled it out – and immediately Jensen launched into ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. I am pretty sure that wasn’t one they’d rehearsed, but it was perfectly rendered anyway, and Jensen’s voice was suddenly all about rocking out. I loved it, and it made me smile inwardly, because there was that Alabama connection again. My quest had begun and ended with Alabama. Go figure!
Jason was told to sing one of his songs, and the audience picked “Your Song.” Jensen abandoned his guitar for a pair of bongos, and tapped out a rhythm, although he felt that he can’t sing and keep the beat simultaneously. He didn’t seem to be having that much trouble to me, and Jason murmured that when he first began playing he couldn’t play guitar and sing at the same time either.
My favorite song of the evening was undoubtedly the next one, another song by Ray Lamontaigne – ‘God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise.’ Jensen talked a little about shutting himself away in his trailer when he’s feeling despondent and alone, and singing this to himself. His rendition was amazing. If I could have him record just one song, that would be the one; it was poignant and sensitive, and more than that, it showed Jensen’s perfect vocal control. I teared up all over again.
‘Free Falling’ followed, and Jensen let go. He denied that he’d go high but did, and nailed it beautifully. His version was a little Tom Petty and rather more John Mayer, and delightful. He was going great guns by now, and I absolutely didn’t want things to end.
Sadly, there was only one more song, and that was Ben Harper’s ‘Walk Away’, slow and melancholy, with lacy harmonies from Jason.
At that point the plug was pulled by Adam Nalin of Creation, and we watched as Jensen and Jason did, in fact, walk away, but not before they both expressed appreciation of our enjoyment, and of the fans as a whole. The jam session had been scheduled for 45 minutes, but in fact went for an hour and a half. I emerged dazed but ecstatic.
The cost of the performance was high, and a lot of fans who would have loved to hear it were denied the chance because of the price, and that saddens me, but I would do it again in a heartbeat, given another chance.
Thank you, Jensen and Jason. You were amazing. I loved every minute. Now I have a single plea. Please, PLEASE make an album together. Please put out an album, and if you do, please include ‘God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise’.