Jesse Dayton’s latest album in his ridiculously varied career, The Outsider (Blue Elan), engineered by Vance Powell (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell), mixes rockabilly, red-dirt twang and kick-ass guitar work to give us one of 2018’s most potent releases.
The album starts off with a good swift punch in the Mike Stinson-penned “May Have to Do It (Don’t Have to Like It)”, shouting a drinker’s next-morning lament – “You’ve gotta get out of bed, son/Drag a comb across your achin’ head.” “Changing My Ways” moves from a quiet, acoustic opening to a Stapleton-esque growl while telling of a man who “Went to war with the whiskey and a million honky tonks,” but now wants to make that change in ways to keep the woman he loves. Not so fortunate is the narrator in “Hurtin’ Behind the Pine Curtain” – his girl has “Dallas on her mind,” and he’s in hot pursuit, consequences be damned. But perhaps no one in recent country music has been as woebegotten in love and lust as the character in “Tried to Quit (But I Just Quit Trying)”:
Well you like women but you’re a married man
Sneakin’ around every chance you can
The feminine nation’s gonna be the ruination of you
Well you like brunettes, and redheads and bottles of blondes
Pullin’ them jeans off, and mowin’ them lawns
Starin’ down the barrel of the same old gun
‘Cause your wife and your girlfriend can’t get along
The revelation on the record, though, is found in “Charlottesville.” The subject matter is what you think it is, but this is no funereal dirge. Dayton’s not sad – he’s pissed. After wars fought and evils defeated – “Well my Granddaddy he fought them sons of bitches/Them Nazis and them snitches” – the singer seems not to understand how we’re still fighting this particular battle. There’s a shoutout to “sweet Heather Heyer”, but make no mistake – Dayton’s not in the mood to mourn.
Dayton produced the album and provided much of the musicianship, too: electric & acoustic guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion. He was joined in studio by Chris Rhoades (background vocals, upright bass, electric bass), Kevin Charney (background vocals, drums, percussion), Riley Osbourne (piano, organ, and keyboards), Brian Thomas (banjo, pedal steel guitar), Eric Tucker (drums), Nate Flemming (pedal steel guitar) and Nate Cook (background vocals on “May Have to Do It”). With the exception of the lead track, all songs were written or co-written by Dayton, and, like much of today’s Americana, what he has to say is worth hearing. Get your copy here. https://www.jessedayton.com/