INTENTION is the latest solo album by Jon Macey, a veteran Boston-based singer songwriter and producer.
With co-producer Lynn Shipley, Macey has created a live-in-the-studio, mostly acoustic ensemble sound for a diverse collection of songs exploring the inner and outer realms of human dynamics.
Macey and Shipley deliberately employed compositional and arrangement techniques designed to circumvent conventional genre labels. A key element of this sound is the exclusion of a traditional rhythm section (“folk rock minus the rock”.)
Macey invited a group of his favorite musicians (none of whom had played together before) into the studio, recording the ensemble over the course of several weekend sessions. Macey and Shipley then crafted sonic elements and embellishments to the arrangements, always mindful of preserving the live-in-the-studio vibe.
Careful attention was paid to the lead vocals, recorded mostly live with the musical basic tracks. Macey and Shipley pointedly avoided the noxious modern infatuation with auto-tuning and quantizing, preferring to capture real music played by real musicians rather than digitally-achieved perfection. The intent was to illuminate the emotional integrity of the songs and performances.
Shipley recruited percussionist Bruce Demaree to create depth and texture using neo-classical and ambient percussion; he also plays traps on certain songs. Demaree’s skill and imagination at sculpting “visual” soundscapes is a critical feature in several songs. Although an accomplished bass player, Macey uses that instrument on only two songs, opting instead to record the low frequencies of his Gibson Hummingbird to fill in that space. The unique rhythms created by these two components provide the foundation for the songs.
Though Macey is known for his harmony-laden power pop compositions, he and Shipley used only female voices to accompany his lead vocals. Macey explored this approach to backing vocals on his first solo release (2003’s Actuality in Process) but it becomes a major feature on Intention. The female voices weave dreamily in and out of the mixes, sometimes answering the leads, at other times serving as a Greek chorus or a sustained tone amongst the musical instruments. The haunting strains of Clara Kebabian’s violin drift throughout several songs, reinforcing their emotional sway.
The two accompanying guitarists, Rich Lamphear and Mike Pyle, alternate on a variety of acoustic and electric guitars, supporting the bedrock of Macey’s Hummingbird. Lamphear and Pyle had not met prior to the sessions -- another Macey/Shipley “intention” neutralizing the tendency to play in pre-conceived patterns and encouraging exploration toward a sonic symmetry. When one is playing a 12-string acoustic, the other plays a clean, echoing Stratocaster; if one is playing a driving Epiphone Casino, the other is playing a Nashville-tuned Telecaster.
The result is a sophisticated suite of songs that communicate timeless emotions and perspectives. Macey has finally placed his voice front and center, inviting the listener into his world of Intention.