Twenty-two-year-old Ethan Jano is an anachronism whose guttural blue-collar voice is a throwback to the good ol’ country vibe with a lot of Johnny Cash’s grit. His debut album I’ll Be Fine has all the hardscrabble elements needed to exemplify the hallmark of the country/bluegrass singer. Ethan knows the dark and the light sides of the life he sings. He knows the Pennsylvania Coal Region known for their industrial contributions: coal, steel, lumber. The dim of this life imprinted in his memory bank.
What’s more, he knows the illumination of the richly musical exchanges that his family household provided for him. Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, the Drifters, and Bob Seger were just a few of the 50s-60s giants who occupied the days in the Jano’s abode. Music filled the spaces of his home at the dinner table or just hanging out with his seven siblings, parents and friends where the guitar or banjo became a staple of the experience.
I’ll Be Fine opens the effort with a track depicting the way of life of the coal miner. But, Ethan does not want to join in on the sorrowful stories of yesterday, although the album is spawned from this environment. Regardless of the toil, the song points to the direction of better days to come. The song is about going forward, not dwelling on the past. It is here where one hears a voice that appears older than the musician’s twenty-two years. In fact, one may wonder if Ethan ever experienced the coal mine first-hand, but there is no doubt that he is a by-product of it. His guitar playing is honest and intensely rhythmic, which adds texture to his words.
The second track “On The Way Back Down” can be imagined as an image of the coal miner descending into the mine and then ascending into the light where there is a promise of a brighter life. Soft, melodic and sensitive, this song embraces the core of a blue-collar worker, working for a better day, a different light. “The Burn,” is a song representing the melancholic dark side of town; where although things are quiet, one can be taken by the burn—the drugs that permeate the depressed neighborhoods. Jano speeds things up again on “I Don’t Care,” a track that speaks of the nature of man thriving on lies. But, then he slows down again on track five with a love song, “All I Need Is You.” By the time, track six arrives you might be feeling a biblical quality coming through on this album. Although the struggle comes from the surroundings, it seeps into the soul and awaits a resurrection.
Track seven, “It Still Remains” is the gem of the bunch. Soft and sensitive, this song captures the deep scars in one’s heart that’s hard to hide even with drugs. The title of the album is I’ll Be Fine, but regardless there is always something left over.