“Praise for Battle Cry Mercy”
BY Jason Earle
Welcome to The Marinade, a free-flowing conversation about the creative process with creative people. Each episode we welcome musicians, actors, comedians, authors, visual artists, filmmakers- anyone who creates art to talk about how and why we make stuff.
This is Episode 151 and our guest is Jared Dustin Griffin. Jared is a singer and songwriter who has undergone an incredible journey to get to this moment. His debut solo record Battle Cry Mercy will be released on November 17, 2023 and it is one of my favorite albums of the year. He has battled homelessness, addiction, and mental health challenges and those themes are dealt with in a gorgeous collection of songs.
Jared Dustin Griffin's Creative Confessions
Like most artists, Jared Dustin Griffin was waylaid during the pandemic and given plenty of time to muse and meditate about what he needed to do in order to move forward. The result of those endeavors, Battle Cry Mercy, is a meaningful collection of rugged, resilient songs that reflect a sense of struggle, sacrifice, and ultimate redemption. Griffin’s own individual challenges, as informed by his battles with mental health issues, homelessness, failed romance, and addiction, are at the root of these songs, and indeed the impassioned performances shared with opening tracks “My Name Is Cannonball” and “Bleed You Away,” reflect the fact his life has often been burdened with misery and marginalization.
That said, Griffin is clearly driven. While the cloud of circumspect hangs heavy over this set of songs, his gruff vocals reflect the fact that he refuses to allow his demons to take command. The upbeat “Sweet Ol’ Loneliness” makes a case for relishing isolation, while “Little Arrows” is surprisingly jolly and jaunty in its dramatic delivery. “Bottle on the Stove” confronts his temptations head-on, making it clear that he’s aware of the challenges he faces with any attempt to stay sober. The wistful “Black and Gold” follows suit.
Griffin’s gritty vocals are especially affecting throughout, and when he sings dying ain’t no sin in the song “Hold My Troubles,” he affects the sound of a man who’s determined his destiny and is unafraid to face it head-on. So too, the tender trappings of “Howlin” share a sense of resignation, and while hardly serendipitous, it’s not about surrender. Griffin’s a tenacious troubadour with a clear desire to persevere despite whatever obstacles may come his way. There’s a decided insistence imbued in each of these offerings, and on a song like the fiddle-fueled “Outpost Blues,” that resilience is all too obvious.
Given its meticulous arrangements—no less than 22 musicians help Jared realize this musical quest— Battle Cry Mercy is wholly expressive in terms of its drive and daring. I must try to find the courage in this battle with who I am, he declares on the album’s sad and sobering final track, the tellingly-titled “Landmines.” Both confessional and compelling, it like the album as a whole, resonates with resolve.
“The songs are all well-recorded statements. Nothing is silly, novelty, or filler. “Bleed You Away,” is a rootsy spiritual. Comes as a nice surprise since it’s not preachy yet – powerful. I think if he lived, even Elvis would’ve covered this. I like Tom Waits, Chuck E, Weiss, Bob Dylan, Buddy Miller & Jon Dee Graham so I already have a place on my shelf for Jared’s work.” - John Apice
“With a voice like a fine scotch whisky,Jared Dustin Griffin delivers an album that just oozes greatness and very reminiscent of Jake Smith and Jack Cade,with more gravel than my driveway. The album is full of Americana and Country rugged resilience that is just stuffed full of fiddle. There's many a tune that would not be amiss on Sons Of Anarchy. Each listen grows and with each listen you realise how superb this album is.” - Rob
BY Alan Cackett
For those who don’t like too much syrup on their pancakes, Jared Dustin Griffin’s brand of country-Americana is sharp, unsentimental, and dipped in the spirit of the blues. His songs echo the early blues of Mississippi John Hurt, the powerful old-time mastery of John Hartford, and the straight-shooting songwriting of John Prine and Hank Williams. Nowhere in this debut solo album, however, does he flatter any of those artists with simple imitation. Rather, he seems to be interacting with his influences, bouncing seamlessly from interpretation to interpretation as he weaves his way through the ten self-penned songs. Inspiration, in Jared’s case, is not something that makes him want to imitate another artist—rather, it makes him want to tap into the core of what he loves about that artist and apply it to his own music. He mixes his gravelly baritone with his inspired poetic juices and post-evangelical personal confessions that spoke directly into my soul, like a cross between Robert Johnson and Jimmie Rodgers. His own truth is all over this record, wrapping up years of hard-living, dangerous missteps, heartbreak, addiction and homelessness, into a hair-raising backwoods ambience that infuses the entire album and this tired looking man, eager to unload his woes to anyone ready to lend an ear. The result is an earthy, yet understated, sound that could have emanated from the blues clubs of Memphis, the back alleys of Chicago or the studios of Muscle Shoals, rather than the sunshine state of California.
As the title suggests, this set of songs places Jared in the midst of personal battles, and his lyrics hone-in on all manner of weaponry in his on-going fight with his personal demons and life obstacles. The confessional opener My Name Is Cannonball is the roaring bonfire you throw everything that’s tied to bad memories into, but it’s also the sizzling, smoky embers when the flames die down. Little Arrows opens with some fine fingerpicking guitar as it showcases his unique mix of raw-edged blues with driving stringband music aided by female harmonies as his singular phrases snap like fingers with the power to shatter bones. The jaunty Sweet Ol’ Loneliness has the snap and bounce of a late 1980s New Trad track with its vibrant mandolin very much to the fore. Black & Gold has a folksy, almost sing-along vibe. You could call this front-porch music, but cranking out this kind of stuff on your front porch would have the neighbourhood in uproar.
The essence of Outpost Blues is a rich, discordant fiddle drone that bridges the mind-melting potentials of early American minimalism, Appalachian folk music, and second-hand ethnographic LPs. It’s heady stuff, and yet so well done, that it not only sounds fresh, but just right for the times. He closes with Landmines, a languid, laid-back stroll through the rocky road of life. It’s authentically Jared Dustin Griffin, even as he tentatively edges closer to God and Salvation to leave his sorrow and regrets back in the shadows. His truth is all over BATTLE CRY MERCY, an astonishing, explosive brand of Americana, delivered through inventive, yet rootsy musical arrangements offsetting his moody, soulful and whisky-soaked baritone vocal.
"an album bristling with gripping songs about acute self-awareness, broken hearts, struggles and redemption, delivered with brutal honesty."
-Rob Dickens, Listening Through The Lens
“Sweet Ol’ Loneliness” by Jared Dustin Griffin, a gritty Americana debut, showcases his haunting vocals and emotive storytelling. The song delves into solitude and connection, exploring themes of longing and nostalgia. Backed by a blend of acoustic and electric instruments, the arrangement mirrors life’s rough edges. Griffin’s songwriting prowess shines through with a memorable chorus, leaving a lasting impression. As Griffin carves his path, this track promises a captivating journey through heartache and hope in his album ‘Battle Cry Mercy.’ With resonant vocals and unapologetic sincerity, Griffin’s arrival marks a new troubadour in the Americana scene. Hailing from the great Northwest and now making his mark in Nashville, Griffin channels the raw essence of Americana through his baritone prowess. His lyrics evoke a soul-baring exploration of the human condition, touching on the search for meaning in a world that often feels adrift. “Sweet Ol’ Loneliness” not only serves as a poignant introduction to his musical journey but also as a testament to his potential as a prominent figure in the world of Americana music. With a blend of gritty authenticity and poetic vulnerability, Jared Dustin Griffin’s name is one to watch, and his song “Sweet Ol’ Loneliness” demands attention as it speaks directly to the soul of its listeners.” - Peter Sleight
Soul-searching solo debut from gruff-voiced troubadour.
By Paul Russell, Americana UK
Life’s challenges and tribulations so often imbue musicians’ songs – a life richly experienced is bound to bring a sense of reality and meaning to any songwriter’s material. And so it is with Jared Dustin who, as with so many artists had to cope with the limitations of Covid together with his personal difficulties. He’s long had addiction and mental health problems, and the power of making music has been redemptive for him in many ways.
Those expecting a dour and doom-laden debut album will be pleasantly surprised as this solid collection of ten songs is often a light-hearted and positive listen. Dustin’s got a lovely throaty vocal style and it serves him really well throughout this collection. Album highlight is ‘Bleed You Away’ which starts in a plaintive mood as Dustin’s hoarse voice soars above guitar and pedal steel and choice background vocals to a wonderful tune, augmented by some lovely piano work. There are apparently 22 musicians who helped Dustin on this album – and most of them must appear on this track – it’s fantastic.
Opener ‘My Name Is Cannonball‘ has organ, harmonica and fiddle backing Dustin from the outset and it’s another effective, highly personal acoustic song. The upbeat ‘Sweet Ol’ Loneliness’ is another example of Dustin challenging his past in a song relishing isolation. ‘Bottle On The Store’ confronts the difficulties he knows is ahead, dealing with his alcohol problems.
Dustin has been making music for over twenty years in various bands and touring extensively. He’s managed to amass an impressive set of songs for his debut solo release and his voice is particularly powerful. A strong and interesting album.