Jason Kertson & The Immortals have created a potent and important debut album that seems incredible to have come from a group of local players of such a young age. Fifteen year old Kertson wrote all six songs and is lead vocalist, bassist and guitarist on “Afraid,”. Given his writing skills, it is plain that he has listened to a lot of music in his day, not to mention the talents he was obviously born with. He began learning guitar at age 7 and performing in coffee houses and other venues when was 9. His voice sure does not sound like that of a 15-year-old, nor does he play like one. Drummer Troy “Ringo” Wageman comes in at the ripe old age of 19, and is definitely on the right path if he is considering making drumming his career. A third member joined the band this past April, 16-year-old Jake Kelly on bass, to complete the triumvirate of rising stars.
“Afraid” showcases beautifully what this band has to offer. The music is…deep, for lack of a better word. Real effort and thought were put into crafting the music as a maestro would a craft a symphony, and lyrics as a poet would write poetry. Jason Kertson & The Immortals could be described as “a thinking person’s band” like Rush, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. There is also a definite tone of 1990s rock on “Afraid” that bring to mind the greats of that decade like Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Kertson sings with a dark passion – throaty and breathy. The band sounds tight and well rehearsed, like these guys really click with each other. The guitar work on this CD is incredible, both in solos and the moments when the playing of two guitars intertwines as one, like on “My Attempt.” Acoustic guitar on this track makes a nice contrast to the wail of the electric version. The title track exemplifies a recurring characteristic of the band, which is “less is more” – there is just enough instrumentation and guitar pedal effects to make for a tasty tune about the yearnings of unrequited love. “Come on let me take you to somewhere you can understand/ don’t be afraid/ just stay with me one more time.”
The band’s grungy sound is full-tilt on “I Think I Know” as Kertson sings, “We all know that no moment’s here for good/ but let’s love the one that we’re in/ just wait a minute and let it all sink in/ and let it all kick in.” Expect to hear a lot more out of Kertson and company, as this band seems ready to roll wherever called. Kertson has already “been around the block” a few times where requests to play major gigs are concerned. He has performed at a Layne Staley tribute concert, at Experience Music Project, and opened for Styx last January. He is the youngest person to have ever performed live on KISW. Among those expressing interest in working with him, Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine has formed a mentoring relationship with the young musician. Jason Kertson & The Immortals play Louie G.’s in Fife on Nov. 30 (8 p.m., $10) with Riot in Rhythm, December in Red, Amadon and The Fail Safe Project, and on Jan. 12 at the Showbox. Keep up with what the band is up to at http://www.jasonkertson.com.
Reviewed by Matt Nagle