Jake Xerxes Fussell — Good and Green Again
Good and Green Again finds Jake Xerxes Fussell expanding on well-established terrain without hoeing the same old row time and again. At the heart of Fussell’s mix of unearthed interpretations and instrumental originals, is his simple yet seductive delivery. Fussell’s vocal and guitar carry the water on these proceedings while guest performances peppered throughout offer tasteful additions to appropriately dynamic arraignments. Bonnie “Prince” Billy on vocals, Joe Westerlund (Megafaun, Califone) on drums, Casey Toll (Mt. Moriah, Nathan Bowles) on upright bass, and Libby Rodenbough (Mipso) strings, and Nathan Grubb on pedal steel all make appearances while James Elkington handled production duties.
Good and Green Again plays out like a soundtrack to a forgotten movie. Yet, while it sounds at home in the background, Fussell’s latest collection keeps pushing for more attention via punctuated and poignant turns of phrase and idiosyncratic instrumentation.
“Love Farewell” begins this quiet collection with a melody reminiscent of “The River St. John” yet fresh all the same, connecting this collection back to Fussell’s previous release. Forlorn longing hangs on Fussell’s and Bonnie Prince Billy’s powerful and simultaneously understated vocals as they call to their leaving lover, “Ring farewell, to my love farewell/ We’re all marching around very well.”
“Breast of Glass” showcases the tender lyrics of love and longing that populate much of Good and Green Again, “If I had a breast of glass/ Wherein you might behold/ Your name in secret I would write/ In letters of bright gold/ In bright gold.”
“The Golden Willow Tree” presents a rare treat – a 9-minute-long tale of an epic maritime battle for wealth and gold that ends in deceit and betrayal. It is a hypnotic and mesmerizing piece for which time proves elastic leaving the listener longing for more even as its 9 minutes stretch. Three original instruments – Fussell’s first on record: “Frolic,” “What did the Hen Duck Say to the Drake,” and “Florida” – act as light palate cleansers, small lullabies mixed among more melancholy tales of loss: personal, communal, and otherwise.
“Washington” closes Good and Green Again with a Fussell’s hushed Telecaster fingerpicking before Fussell sings, “General Washington/Noblest of men/His house, his horse, his cherry tree, and him.” These few bare lines open a piece of building French horn, trumpet, and string that finally expand into the ethereal leaving the listener floating into the sonic space Fussell and company have curated.
Join Jake Xerxes Fussell on a journey through unpretentious folk music. Fussell and his collaborators evoke a time and place that may not have existed but is inviting all the same. Offering us a somber and solemn escape from the trials and tribulations of pandemic and political divisions, Good and Green Again yearns for togetherness even as it contemplates leaving and loss. If you aren’t already riding the JXF line, now is the perfect time to hop on. https://www.jakexerxesfussell.com