Crooked Tree is the debut solo album by Michael Jaskewicz, a singer-songwriter from New Jersey. I met him sometime in 2019 while he was performing at a bar with Cosmic Jerry Band (now called Cosmic), which then mainly was a tribute to the Grateful Dead that has since evolved into focusing on original music. In fact, they just came out with their own debut album Bloom on December 27. I finally got to listen to Crooked Tree and really dig the warm, bare bones acoustic sound.
As Jaskewicz notes in a blog post on his website, in addition to Jerry Garcia and the Dead, his influences include Warren Haynes, Bob Dylan, The Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Trey Anastasio. In an interview with Music Life Now, he also noted Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, among others. Listening to the album before I had seen that interview Taylor came to my mind as well, as did Yusuf/Cat Stevens and Marc Cohn, who is best known for his 1991 signature tune Walking in Memphis. Jaskewicz’s voice occasionally reminds me a bit of Cohn.
Under normal circumstances, Crooked Tree could have appeared last April. But as Jaskewicz pointed out in the above blog post, COVID-19 and his struggle with depression and anxiety delayed things. “I spent a lot of time wrestling with the demons in my head trying to figure out why it seemed every imaginable roadblock to my success in music was being placed before me,” he explains. “Getting ready to step out into the world with songs, only to have the world hold a giant red stop sign in front of my face was pretty much a surefire way to send my mind straight into the darkness. And boy did it ever.”
Time for some music. Here’s the opener and title song, which was inspired by Jaskewicz’s infatuation with oddly shaped trees, as well as the terminal cancer of a close friend. “As I thought of his pain and suffering aligned with the intense light of a human being he was, he became the Crooked Tree in my mind and the words started flowing, ” he told Music Life Now. “I wanted to paint a picture of how beautiful he was, how life had taken its toll on him, and how in reality we are all Crooked Trees. Our flaws make us beautiful. We should not bear shame for the mental and physical scars we have from enduring life.”
In What Is a Life Jaskewiciz muses about the factors that oftentimes limit life. In a separate blog post on his website, he explained, “The absurdity of the verses in What Is A Life are an homage to imagination. Wishes on a feather, bury the clouds and sow seeds of whim, windows of time on a golden swing…. All just random musings of the mind eventually pushed into some corner of your mind to die. Without opening your imagination, you never can truly see the beauty of things, you can’t paint the canvas of your life.”
War That Can’t be Won is a dark, powerful tune. Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics: …Future’s falling from a poison sky/Future’s calling with a look in her eyes/Blood is flowing over government gold/Seeds of vengeance will grow no more…
I’d like to call out one more track: Falling in Your Eyes, the album’s beautiful closer.
“I am so proud to have released Crooked Tree,” Jaskewicz stated. “In a past life I would have been so content with just that, but the truth is I’m already working on the follow up and my goal is to have it completed by the end of the year.”Jaskewicz appears to be on a roll. At the time of his aforementioned statement, he already had 46 completed songs. On November 30, he released a new single titled Stars In Our Eyes.
I think Jaskewicz is off to a great start and I look forward to his sophomore album.
Sources: Michael Jaskewicz website; Music Life Now; YouTube
4 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Listening to: Michael Jaskewicz/Crooked Tree”
Crooked Tree is really deep and meaningful. I listened to it a few times. Hearing the background really makes it more meaningful.
I love the last song also Falling in Your Eyes…I’ll keep an eye out for him. Thanks, Christian for these selections.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Agree, Max. While I noticed Jaskewicz is a talented guitarist when I met him with his Grateful Dead cover band in 2019 (and chatted with him about his cool custom-build guitar that looks a little bit like it could be a Prince ax), I had no idea he’s doing his own music. I also didn’t know about his own struggle with depression and anxiety. His songs clearly are an outlet to deal with both. So, yes, this is deep and quite personal stuff!
BTW, “his” band Cosmic just put out their own debut album. While I have to give it more time, this one sounds really great as well. If you’re curious, it available for free streaming at https://www.cosmicmusicnj.com/music
LikeLiked by 1 person
Lennon would do that also…almost like working it out through songs…or a form of therapy. That is really cool that you met him. I love the tree anology also.
I bookmarked it…I played a few and they sound really good. Good riffs and one had a good jangle sound…I will go back to that. Thanks Christian.
I was wondering if anyone knows what happened to Dime Piece LA celebrity streetwear brand? I am unable to check out on Dimepiecela site. I have read in Vanity Fair that they were acquired by a UK hedge fund for $50 m. I’ve just bought the LA OG Heavy Blend Crewneck Sweatshirt from Amazon and totally love it xox