Jesse Terry – Forget-Me-Nots – Volumes 1 & 2
Jesse Terry should not just be congratulated for a fine album but also, along with his musicians, for its respectable finesse, & stunning production value. There’s a vitality & is exceptional work.
Produced by Neilson Hubbard (drums/harmonies/piano on “Twilight Time”), & Jesse Terry Forget-Me-Nots – Volumes 1 & 2 Drops Feb 18– Independent). The packaging is also excellent & the songs are varied but wise. Recorded in South Carolina & Tennessee it can be educational for singers & fans. It’s an exploration of how an artist interprets another’s work. Many times, A&R people at a record company will get a demo from an unknown with original songs. But a good demo always has one cover song to show how the singer can perform a song, not of their own.
Usually, an established artist with a track record & marketable name would risk recording 22-covers by other artists. However, it can be equally foolhardy since many covers can be a poor replication, arranged so out of whack as to be a novelty, are totally misinterpreted (Lawrence Welk’s Orchestra doing “One Toke Over The Line” on TV). Or a song that is out of their vocal range or not their style.
Jesse Terry isn’t known as an artist who sings covers nor is it clear who the audience is. Certainly, his young listeners may not understand this maneuver. I’m giving Terry the benefit of the doubt. He carries most of these songs off admirably. Maybe he’s out to show his young admirers how to open their ears.
I loved The Beatles & their music, but they were never Elvis Presley’s or Frank Sinatra’s equals as interpreters of a songwriter’s material. Many place value on an artist writing their own. Not every artist has that compositional talent. Years ago, tunesmiths who can’t sing had their tunes interpreted by great singers (Brill Building & Tin Pan Alley were the big ones). None of the cover songs The Beatles recorded were ever as engaging as their own (they were the exception). Not even “Twist & Shout,” which is their best cover — it’s not as exciting as The Isley Brothers.
That aside Jesse Terry has actually under-taken a huge job. He has loyalty to vintage melodies & their importance. The PR states some songs were recorded due to requests. That’s a good sign. However, not all songs become good simply because the singer can sing & the musicians are proficient. There’s always magic that must be added to a cover song. An attempt to make it their own.
Jesse scores high even on Dylan’s “My Back Pages.” It doesn’t sound like Dylan or The Byrds. This is fine work. Adding the female voice gave the song a cool creative lift. But Jesse’s own voice indeed interprets quite well. The diversity in selecting songs is also terrific. They’re not all songs everyone readily knows.
I was never a fan of John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind,” too wordy. But Terry with the female vocalists & fiddle on his version has a divine arrangement. It’s appealing.
Are they perfect? Not completely. “Some Enchanted Evening,” is a show tune. Without a big voice like Ezio Pinza, or Jay Black it sounds like Terry’s reaching. He doesn’t possess this style despite a valiant effort. Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Road,” seems to be a good choice but Jesse doesn’t have that Elton range. He has moments that make it pleasant but it’s still a song not suited to his vocalizing. This concludes disc 1.
Jesse regains balance on Tom Petty’s “Walls,” on disc 2. Beautiful instrumentation, Jesse’s banjo is a nice touch & he’s relaxed & confident. The vintage Platters tune “Harbor Lights,” is a surprise. Terry’s disciplined shows an ability to be an effective easy listening vocalist.
He follows this with Tom Waits’ “Hold On,” & his deeper tone works. He’s hard-bitten with precision & never dilutes the effort with a pop voice. Quite impressive.
The Eric Clapton cover “Let It Grow,” with the gypsy-like violin is exceptional. Totally reinvented from the original.
However, Carole King-Gerry Goffin’s classic “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” is flat, too breathy, & sounds like Terry’s struggling. Still a bit breathy on the banjo tune “Don’t Panic,” but he is in far better control here.
Move on to “Seven Bridges Road,” & his voice opens up, it’s a comfort zone, on Steve Young’s classic. A fine, well-played piece of music with fiery violin.
Another Platters classic “Twilight Time,” is reinvented with care with good acoustic guitar, violins & Jesse adds a mix of regular singing & deep tones. Wonderful. It’s not The Platters but who is? He understood his limitations.
The Gershwin tune “Someone To Watch Over Me,” gets close to the conclusion of CD 2 & Jesse Terry asserts himself well as an easy-listening singer. He’s not Sinatra or Tony Bennett but Jesse has heart & determination. This is a masterful set of oldies dusted off, polished & given new life.
At no time does Jesse Terry showboat or embellish these melodies. He adds only the essentials.
Musicians: Fats Kaplin (pedal steel-lap steel guitars/Dobro/violin/mandolin), Eamon McLoughlin (violin/viola/mandolin), Danny Mitchell (piano/organ/keys/harmonies), Sam Howard (electric-Upright bass), Will Kimbrough (electric-acoustic guitars), Juan Solorzano (electric guitar), Alan Fish (acoustic guitar), Craig Bickhardt, Mary Bragg & Mia Rose Lynne (harmonies) & Jesse (lead vocals/acoustic Nylon-string guitars/banjo),
My only suggestion is sequencing. Had Terry placed his oldest cover songs first & gradually worked up to the more modern covers it could’ve shown a progression. Joni Mitchell’s “A Case Of You,” & Jules Shear’s “All Through the Night,” are excellent but should’ve been at the end. This would’ve played through from earliest to newest. The finale is Jimmy Webb’s “Adios,” — quite poignantly appropriate.
The double-CD is available @ https://www.jesseterrymusic.com/