Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Jared Bartman is a young songwriter from parts of Illinois that no one, except those of us who live in the proximity, ever consider for too much. In fact, the state is often seen as the everywhere that is Chicago and the nowhere that is the rest of the state. Bartman grew up far enough west of Chicago that, even one with a very liberal estimate of what and what is not a suburb, could have never considered it one. Then he decided to go to college in Peoria, where it's easy to just blend in and wile away.
Sure, you can pick up books and recordings from everywhere in the world, no matter where you grow up or call home, but the ways that Bartman has imagined his distinctive and highly-creative compositions is something that doesn't just come to most people who have been raised where he's been raised. You're more likely to get into Cheap Trick, Slipknot or Randy Travis than you ever would the artsy world of classical and almost operatic music that he dipped into. He seems as if he's seasoned himself on Owen Pallett, John Vanderslice's albums and movie collection and Leonard Cohen's beautifully demonstrative dramatic flairs.
A song like "In Belize" is about as exotic as they come from a central Illinois-bred man. It's a song that makes you think of chandeliers, dinner parties and standing around a punchbowl, with huge laughs rattling the diminishing ice cubes in the tightly held tumblers, be men and women of excess. You feel as if you're standing in a grand ballroom, with sweeping curtains and silverware that's actually silver and will only be used this once before being retired.
Bartman brought with him this day a collection of some of his most talented musical friends - cellist Chris Adams-Wenger, vocalist/keyboardist Stephanie Bartman, bassist Per Ellington, violinist Jenna Ferdon, drummer Aaron Kavelman, violinist Kelsey Klopfenstein, vocalist Michy Maloof and viola player Alyssa Przygoda - and they built a wonderfully expansive atmosphere of arched ceilings and stained glass. With a wind that starts to kick up on "I Shall Not Care," a rain storm descends upon the grand ballroom and all of the patrons are watered before they're sent shivering to their cars and their quiet and dark drives home in "Loves Secret," one song later. With a focused eye on mood, Bartman pulls the silken strings and we hear a talented head unfolding.