Reviewed by William Tokash
Jesse Daniel’s 2018 eponymous release on his Die True Records label is a rollicking, thoughtful, melody-and-hook laden gem of a record that mostly belies an explicit accounting of the personal challenges that Jesse has overcome. But maybe the name of his record label gives a hint. Jeff Tweedy famously highlighted in his lyrics to Wilco’s War on War release in 2002, “You have to learn how to die, if you want to want to be alive.” This album feels more like a rebirth, a fresh start filled with acceptance and optimism coupled with matter-of-fact lyrical expression of life’s basic travails that portends a bright songwriting future for the Santa Cruz, California-based artist.
Jesse is currently nominated in the Honky Tonk Male category in Dale Watson’s 2019 Ameripolitan Music Awards, and tracks like Big Fish and The Banker are steeped with a classic honky tonk vibe. But this record’s recipe is also seasoned with a dash of Smooth Waylon and a pinch of roadhouse, piano-based rockabilly, topped with a tasty dose of “countrypolitan” balladry. The Smooth Waylon comes through on Soft Spot (For the Hard Stuff) and SR-22 Blues, while the rockabilly influences shine on Hell Bent and Killing Time ‘Til Time Kills Me. And the pedal steel licks on the record’s straight-away ballads (Coming Down Again & Looks Like Rain) exhibit Jesse’s knack for a hook.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on Jesse’s tour dates to see if/when he can get himself out here toward the Midwest. Given that we are staring Winter right in the eye here in Chicago, it might be better for his West Coast crew to wait until it warms up a bit. However, I am looking forward to getting the chance to see his live show at some point and to continue to track his evolution as an artist.
Jesse Daniel Spotify Favs Playlist
Soft Spot (for the Hard Stuff)
Killing Time ‘Til Time Kills Me
Coming Down Again