BOSTON. It’s 2 a.m. on a Monday morning, but Jason Evritz is hard at work at Permanent Records, where the early morning hour translates into less expensive studio time for his new album. “I’ll sleep in,” he says, his face a mixture of elation and fatigue. “I’m too pumped to go to bed now anyway.”
Evritz is one of the leading voices of “clear-eyed soul,” a musical genre without racial boundaries that is characterized by an unsentimental look at modern romance. “Clear-eyed soul can take the form of country, or rhythm and blues, even klezmer,” says producer Joe Valeri, who has built a reputation delivering pointedly unromantic music to music buyers trying to get over breakups. “It’s background music for those moments in your life when you find yourself muttering ‘That bitch’ or ‘That bastard,’ depending on your sex.”
Evritz broke into the Billboard Clear-Eyed Soul Top 100 last year with “I’d Do (Almost) Anything for You,” a song that struck a nerve among young singles who’d recently drawn the line at a request from a sexual partner.
“I’d do almost anything for you,” the chorus begins,
“I don’t think I’d spend a Sunday at the zoo–with you.
And if you asked me to vacation with you and your mom and dad,
I think I’d have to say–too bad.”
“Clear-eyed” soul follows in the footsteps of “blue-eyed soul,” which consisted of white people singing songs in a manner that mimicked black vocal styles. Prior to that trend, “regular” soul predominated without specifying an eye color, although they were usually brown.
Later Valeri brings his latest prospect, Kenny Van Meter, in for a session with an in-house songwriting team to work out the kinks on a solo number he wrote that the studio wants to turn into a anti-romantic duet with Marla Porter, a winsome twenty-six year old they hope will form the distaff side of a his ‘n hers team like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. “You ready?” Porter asks through the window at two engineers sitting at a giant sound board.
“Whichever Comes First, take one,” one of them says as he fiddles with an array of dials whose function is a closed book to the non-music industry bystanders in the control room.
Sometimes I love you, sometimes I don’t,
Sometimes you will, sometimes you won’t
do the things I want you to do.
It’s like you don’t even have a clue.
Did I say I wanted to eat barbecue?
I’m a foreign land you ought to discover,
Call Ponce de Leon,
or I may soon be gone.
I will always be your lover,
until I find another . . .
whichever comes first.