On Blues Is a Feeling, the late guitarist-vocalist Jesse Thomas delivers straightforward, rural-sounding blues in an intimate, drumless session from 1992 with pianist Jodie Christian and second guitarist John Primer. Thomas was 81 years old at the time of this recording, just three years before his death. And though his voice sounds somewhat frail here-and probably would’ve been overwhelmed by the sound of drums-Primer and Christian provide light, elegant accompaniment that puts Thomas’ soft yet expressive vocals in the foreground. And Thomas proves to be a humorous storyteller on tunes like “Married Woman Blues,” “She Throwed Me Clothes Outdoor” and “Santa Claus.”
Jesse Kinch's "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" is the title cut from his full-length debut, due out 1 June via Curb Records. If Kinch's name is familiar, it's probably because of his appearance on ABC's Rising Star singing competition. There, he wowed audiences with covers of "I Put a Spell on You" and "Seven Nation Army", fusing the soul of rock's past with the bombast of its present.
Oh, My Girl, the second album by singer/songwriter Jesse Sykes and her band the Sweet Hereafter – led by Phil Wandscher – picks up where her debut, Reckless Burning, left off. Songs are played at cough-syrup tempo, production is sparse, instrumentation equally so, offering just enough of a frame for the melody and lyrics to hang themselves on, and everything, absolutely everything, is underplayed. There is plenty of dynamic tension, but little to no dynamic range. Yes, this is a good thing. Sykes' ghostly voice, which hovers about her words more than inhabits them, has enough old-world folkiness, raw – if intentionally muted – willingness, and lonesome country pain in it to carry off these tunes with authority. Produced, mixed and engineered by multi-instrumentalist Tucker Martine, Oh, My Girl is full of slow, dipping passion, moody expressionism and poetic smarts to make it stand out in a sensual, narcotic way from the rest of the gothic alterna-twang pack. And one more thing: Sykes has more emotion in the grain of her halting, cracking voice than a whole army of Margo Timmins'es – so let the comparisons stop now, please.
Taking what talents they've garnered from previous bands such as Hominy and Whiskeytown, lead singer Jesse Sykes and guitarist Phil Wandscher are onto something far bigger than the two could have foreseen. The opening title track lends itself as much to Margo Timmins as it does to a latter-day Lucinda Williams à la "Lonely Girls" in its almost morose tempo and arrangements, making the nearly seven-minute song glide along effortlessly and, to the listener, far shorter. The following numbers offer the same barren sounds, evoking images of members recording the songs in a log cabin. The well-trodden but solidly produced tracks never waver, especially "Doralee" and the slightly upbeat, honky tonk of "Lonely Hill." Resembling a trace of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon," the tune discusses heartbreak over a cross between Appalachian music and traditional country twang. "Don't Let Me Go" is another fine gem that doesn't stray too far from Sykes' strong points.
One of the best songwriters of the 1960s and early '70s, with an unassuming style that managed to sound like Fred Neil, J.J. Cale, Jim Croce, Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, and early Tom Waits by turns (and sometimes all at once), Jesse Winchester would have been as well known and regarded as any of these had history not swept him from Louisiana, where he was born, to Montreal, Canada, where he took up residence in exile (like thousands of other young men at the time) to avoid the Vietnam War. Winchester was working gigs as a lounge pianist when his draft notice came, and while he joined a couple of local bands after his flight to Canada, his life as a musician had been torn apart.
Why do testicles hang the way they do? Is there an adaptive function to the female orgasm? What does it feel like to want to kill yourself? Does “free will” really exist? And why is the penis shaped like that anyway?