The first studio CD in ten years
from the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan has named
as among the best of his generation!
You could stock a crowd-pleasing jukebox with the songs Jesse Winchester has written and recorded in the last four decades – and with the better-known versions of his songs that have become hits and album staples for artists ranging from Joan Baez to Elvis Costello to Jimmy Buffett. Winchester’s skill in capturing vivid small town vignettes, heartfelt love and love-lost situations, and goodtime celebrations has yielded a litany of I-know-that-songs: “Yankee Lady,” “Biloxi,” “Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” “Talk Memphis,” “Rhumba Girl,” “Payday,” “I’m Gonna Miss You, Girl,” “Let’s Make a Baby King” and many more. His 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composters, Artists and Publishers (ASCAP) is one gauge of the music world’s esteem.
Love Filling Station, Winchester’s Appleseed debut and his first studio CD since 1999’s Gentleman of Leisure, offers nine characteristically top-flight originals among its dozen songs. It also highlights Jesse as a graceful, soulful vocalist, as memorable a singer as a songwriter. His light southern tenor drawl, warmly wrapped in country/bluegrass/folk arrangements, can gently ascend to the heavens a la Roy Orbison, as in the lovestruck wonderment of “O What a Thrill” (already covered by The Mavericks), dish some sly, wry dirt (“It’s a Shame About Him”) and even capture the sublime hush of Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me,” one of the CD’s three covers. The lightly rocking “Wear Me Out,” another original, mixes a mock-plaintive vocal of sexual exhaustion with a funky, gospel-tinged call-and-response as the great bluegrass solo artist and sideman Jerry Douglas threads carnal lap steel guitar licks throughout the song.
Aside from Douglas’s guest shot, some of the core musicians on Love Filling Station are the equally estimable Russ Barenberg (guitar, mandolin); Mark Fain (bass) and Andy Leftwich (fiddle) from Ricky Scaggs’ band; Jesse himself (guitar, keyboards, lead and backing vocals); and solo artist Claire Lynch, who summons her inner Dolly Parton on one of the album’s other cover songs, “Loose Talk,” an uptempo country lament about wagging tongues and provincial minds.
The strength, sincerity and humor of Winchester’s songs combine the laidback gentility of his Memphis upbringing with the perspective and longing of his longtime Canadian exile, self-imposed in 1967 upon receipt of his draft notice. The ten years that followed, before then-President Carter declared amnesty in 1977, may have limited his recognition and eliminated touring in the US, but the next 25 years based in Montreal were voluntary and productive, in a leisurely way. Repatriated in Virginia with an American-born wife since 2002, Winchester sounds happy to be home on Love Filling Station, and we’re glad to have him back.