Column | A Novel That Sings and Some Art Attractions

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – JD Eicher’s latest album, “The Majesto Sessions,” is another great release from the singer-songwriter and band leader.

That’s no surprise. Eicher is one of the most thoughtful and talented songwriters and lyricists that Youngstown has ever produced.

But who knew his talent extends into the literary field?

On the day he released “The Majesto Sessions,” Eicher released a novel titled “The Lights Along Majesto.”

Indeed, the album is basically a soundtrack to the book. They go together. You don’t have to read the book to like the album, but your appreciation of the music will grow if you do.

The book also demonstrates  Eicher’s ability as a novelist.

“Majesto” (available at jdeicher.com) is his first novel and it has the same introspective style of his songs.

It’s told from the point of view of the manager of a rock’n’roll tour who is on the road with two artists who couldn’t be more different. One is beloved for his thought-provoking and mature songcraft. The other is arrogant and insufferable, but with the larger than life charisma of a rock star.

The story comes to its climax at the fictional Majesto Theater in Youngstown, Ohio.

With total naturalness, Eicher reveals the complex and ever-evolving emotions, insecurities and gut feelings of the protagonist as the story unfolds.

His prose is succinct and precise, which allows the reader to envision the action cinematically.

“The Majesto Sessions” is a quick read – just 213 pages – but it is engrossing and satisfying.

They say you should write about what you know, and Eicher wisely chose a topic he knows better than almost anyone: The life of a traveling musician.

For me, “Majesto” checks a lot of boxes. It is rock’n’roll. It’s behind the scenes. It’s a road trip. It’s set in that pregnant moment when dreams are on the verge of being realized, and the world is full of promise.

And – surprisingly for a first-time novelist – it has great dialogue, and great soliloquies.

It also has a surprising ending.

Eicher said he got the idea to write a novel after the time he spent on the road with novelist Nicholas Sparks several years ago. Sparks selected Eicher to write songs to accompany his latest book and brought the musician along on a book signing tour.

Eicher clearly soaked up some literary techniques from Sparks.

But he went a step further by creating music to accompany his own novel.

It’s an impressive feat, made all the more extraordinary because it’s Eicher’s first attempt at writing a novel. Hopefully it’s not his last.

BUTLER EXHIBITIONS

One of Jim Steranko’s reasons for having his exhibition at The Butler Institute of American Art is to gain exposure for the museum.

The comic book and film art legend is aware of the great pieces that hang in the Youngstown museum, and he wants to use his star power to make other people aware of it.

The idea is that fans of Steranko will come to see his exciting paintings of superheroes and movie characters, such as The Shadow, Indiana Jones, Captain America and Sgt. Fury, and while they are there, spend some time absorbing the classical art in the other galleries.

It seems to be working. And the timing couldn’t be better for an influx of new faces, because of another new exhibition at the museum.

This painting by Jim Steranko depicts Indiana Jones, a character that he helped to create for the 1981 movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

On April 3, selections from the private collection of the late David M. Draime, and his wife, Cecile, opened in two galleries at The Butler.

The exhibition consists mostly of works by European masters, including Chagall, Picasso, Soulages, Matisse and Valdes. It is stunning and a rarity because The Butler focuses on works by Americans. Rarely does it display works by European or Asian artists.

Simply put, the Draime collection is one of the most spectacular exhibits in recent memory at the Butler. Visitors who come to the Steranko show would do well to walk a few steps to the other end of the second floor to see it.

The reverse is also true. Those who come for the serious art of the Draime exhibition should check out Steranko’s work.

Drawn from the superhero world that spawned them, the large paintings are bright, beautiful and bursting with action.

Pictured: JD Eicher and the cover of his new novel, “The Lights Along Majesto.” (Image: Jack Karson)

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