Jason Wilson is depicting generational memories in his upcoming album.
As both an adjunct professor of history at the University of Guelph and a musician, Wilson is set to release his tenth album, Ashara on Sept. 29. While originally set to perform on Wolfe Island, Wilson’s show in Kingston was cancelled due to difficulties with the venue.
The album—which can be streamed on Soundcloud—features nine songs and seven originals, focusing on his family’s Scottish lineage and Ayrshire roots. Wilson’s music investigates personal memory and generational lineage to understand his Scottish roots.
Played with the DADGAD Celtic guitar tuning often found in rock, folk, and metal, the album is mainly set in the lowlands of Scotland.
With a reggae background, Wilson typically writes his music on the keys, but this album has altered his writing process. The DADGAD acoustic guitar was brand new for him, but with the help of Scottish folk artist Dick Gaughan, Wilson learned to make sounds ring out.
“It opens up colours and shapes you can get on a piano, but you wouldn’t necessarily think that way when you’re writing. But, with a guitar, that’s exactly how I was thinking,” Wilson said in an interview with The Journal.
The album’s Arabic name Ashara can be translated to the number ten, while being another word for the ash tree.
Wilson views the Ashara as the tree of life. Reflectively, the music’s tone and lyrics represent each stage in a human’s life—from childhood to first crush, to love, loss, and death. The narrative isn’t sequential, but representative of these eras.
“My father passed away in 2019. [Ashara] was sparked by rediscovering 8mm films [of his life]. I had them digitized, and it was the key that opened everything up,” Wilson said.
Wilson recalled sitting in the basement of his parent’s smoky townhouse with his other Scottish relatives. He remembered gazing up at the film-covered walls and watching his family films. Re-watching these as an adult gave him a unique glimpse into the past.
“I’d never seen my sister as a young girl. [My] aunts and uncles [were] much younger than I remember them. It unlocked this place I’d never written about in my mind.”
Wilson wrote each of the seven original songs and said his lyrics come from a place of conversation between him and his mother, as well as him and his Scottish roots.
One of his favourite songs from the album is “My Loves Sings Like a Lintie,” which is based on the little town his mother grew up in.
The lintie is a Scottish bird, and he views the bird chasing him through time, in the same way youth chases people as they grow older.
Another track Wilson holds dear is “An Evening in Paris in Cumnock Tonight.” He wrote this with his mother’s help. Growing up in a small town, she spent her Saturday nights at a large dance called Cumnock and would wear the Ernest Beaux perfume An Evening in Paris.
“‘An Evening in Paris in Cumnock Tonight’ means something to [the audience] even though they might not know what the ’50s Scottish dances look like.”
Despite Wilson’s performance being cancelled, he has strong ties to the entertainment scene in Kingston. He started touring in Kingston in his early 20s.
“We had a regular gig at a place called the Caribbean, and it’s no longer there, but it was right downtown. It was awesome, and we would play there every couple of months, we [Wilson’s past bandmates] have very memorable moments there.”
Wilson said those without Scottish descent might connect with the songs, and calls his tracks a window into parts of his culture.
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