Wes Collins – Jabberwockies
North Carolina native Wes Collins has a refined vocal & on the opener “Jenny and James,” a similar tone to Steve Earle. These lighter than Earle songs work in an easy-going manner. No revolutions, uprising, or drunk & disorderly.
Unlike many who write basically “lyrics” that rhyme & if lucky with an inch of cleverness. Collins (vocals/12-string guitar/acoustic/guitar) apparently has mastered the poetry of good lyrics with mini novellas & character sketches that have a richness that’s important in country & folk traditions.
So, what we have here in Wes Collins are 10 songs from something called Jabberwockies (Drops June 3–Nosy Dog) that doesn’t really apply accurately. The word means “meaningless speech or writing.” I find Wes Collins anything but meaningless on this 3rd LP.
Produced by Wes & Chris Rosser (harmonium/Hammond B3/piano/Leslie harmonium/Farfisa) & mostly recorded in North Carolina, Wes looks more like a Harvard professor. But he certainly has the goods in this showcase.
There are many artists I could compare Wes to but for the most part, he has perfected a program that suits his voice & performance without a blemish. Some songs are relatively simple, but they all have charm since the lyric sometimes sings with a conversational swipe.
“Last Saturday,” is nothing special except we all say it at times. Last “any day,” a month ago, a while ago, several weeks ago & we seldom write about the recent past in that clever way.
The backup singing throughout is light as a feather & added like a pinch of salt to a good recipe. There has to be a reason to return to an album after listening a few times. Wes’ songs have that memorable call back to the music. There are no fireworks on the album. Just fine playing with exceptional vocalizing.
The majority of tunes are short – nothing overstays its welcome. The musicians involved are River Guerguerian (drums), FJ Ventre (bass), Pete Damore (octave mandolin), Crystal Hairu-Damore, Jaimee Harris (harmony), Franklin Keel (cello), Matt Smith (pedal steel), Scott Dameron (electric guitar/acoustic guitar), & Barry Gray (acoustic guitar/harmony).
A return to that Steve Earle edge mixed with Bruce Cockburn sensibility comes on “Grease Fire,” a descriptive song with lots of presence. But with “The Trees,” there’s a touch of the folky soft balladry of folkies David Blue & Eric Andersen. All well-executed. But can Wes rock?
The answer surprisingly is yes. Wes is jubilant on “Sugar Skull” with an injection of a dance-infused beat. The vocals are decorated with cheesy but effective rock n’ roll Farfisa. Nice.
Color image by Stan Lewis. The 33-minute CD @ https://wescollins.com/home