Jalan Crossland: Spinning Those ‘Strange, New Old-Timey Tales’
Despite the stagemanship and repertoire that has earned singer/songwriter Jalan Crossland the upbeat sobriquet “The Trailer-Park Troubadour,” he's much more than just a pretty face.
Though (because?) he lives in a town whose population is 307, he has an almost uncanny grasp of the machinations of heartbreak and human nature, as expressed in lyrics such as “Checkout time / And the Sunday morning sunshine / Is a jury trial...”
Crossland admits he hasn't always fully respected roots music. As a young man, he was briefly seen performing electric guitar on tour with “big-hair, whammy bar, Iron Maiden wannabe bands” before reason eventually prevailed.
Since then, he's made up for lost time by compiling a trove of original music and becoming a master of the acoustic guitar—with no less a picker than Spencer Bohren referring to him as “one of the finest guitarists in America.” To which Panache Magazine adds, “If you're lucky enough to hear Jalan play live, observe the audience. It will be made almost entirely of drop-jawed, glassy-eyed, altogether astonished listeners."
But a reviewer for Planet Jackson Hole cautions listeners not to expect mere razzle-dazzle: “More than just a great picker, Crossland's performances feature graceful delivery and genuine character."
As for his choice of subject matter, the Wyoming Chronicle's Jeff O'Gara reports that “Crossland writes songs about people who shoot at tin cans, put tires on their trailer-top roof, and maybe drink just a bit too much. But when you listen to the songs and the characters he creates, you'll hear that within the humor, amidst the banjo notes and behind the twangy voice, there's a real affection. He lives it.”
Aficionados of the banjo will notice up front that Crossland's model is left-handed—and has six strings, besides. He credits his love of the instrument, and a large part of his musical upbringing, to his musician Uncle Dan: “I quit playing the banjo in high school because it was the age of synthesized rock-and-roll, and banjos were definitely uncool. But I took it up again, about 10 years ago.”
The reason for his unlikely contraption, he says, is that “I've never been able to learn any of the really proper styles on the banjo, like the rolling Scruggs style or the knock-down frailing style—which my uncle used. So because of that I built this hybrid-style thing, which most banjo players just find appalling. But it works.”
Crossland and his group, who have dubbed themselves “The Little Country Band of the Apocalypse,” have released three CDs: “Moonshiner,” “Poorboy Shanty,” and “Trailer Park Fire and Other Tragedies.”
But perhaps Crossland's greatest recent contribution to Internet discourse is the tag line for his home page, which has been forwarded through so many Twitter and Facebook accounts that its head is spinning, offering this personal wisdom:
“I ain't great at anything, but if you are half-assed at enough things, and roll 'em all together, you can amount to more than one whole ass."
--Dale Short, carrolldaleshort.com