Record Of The Week # 116

Jesse Daniel – Beyond These Walls

This is a perfect confection of traditional and contemporary country with exceptional lyrics and stories. Daniel released his first album in 2018; this is his third. In this short time garnered praise and awards as a new, authentic talent who can write a fabulous song and deliver it with a magnetic vocal. Here there’s a variety of country sounds from the 60s to the 90s, all drenched in melody and personality. and his partner, and sometime co-writer, Jodi Lyford own their independent record label. He’s clearly an entrepreneur and to complement this acumen he’s assembled a brilliant cast to support him on the record: firstly Tommy Detamore (a seasoned producer with a CV including Jim Lauderdale, Moe Bandy and Sunny Sweeney) was on controls and steel guitar. Detamore’s recruited some ace, veteran musicians to play on the record and they elevate the whole sound. The players include Ronnie Huckaby (George Strait), Kevin Smith (Willie Nelson) and John Carroll (Jim Lauderdale). 

For a millennial Daniel has already lived enough for a lifetime of stories, including beating substance abuse. This shows in his songs: “Gray” tells of a good friend who’s addicted and has begun slipping away. His clear and mellifluous voice tells the story over an acoustic guitar, before a piano contributes a few chords in advance of a viola adding the heart wrenching emotion. Equally bleak but compelling is “Clayton Was A Cowboy”. It’s a story of a successful, swashbuckling rodeo cowboy who’s on the circuit, living fast and loose. A lively dance rhythm, with some fabulous finger-picking and a slapped snare beat, helps recount his life and demise in the ring over five verses.

“Drop A Line” is another favourite country topic: bass fishing. It features Kevin Smith’s walking bass line with some lovely guitar from John Carroll whilst Hank Singer’s fiddle adds colour. It’s a terrific light-hearted song not least when he quips between verses ‘got a fish so big the picture weighed 5lbs”! 

As a Californian his affection for Mexico and its music is evident not least when he sings a duet with Raul Malo (The Mavericks) in the ranchero style. It’s in Spanish unlike the other Mexican ditty “Sõnando Contigo” (‘Dreaming Of You’…thank you Google Translate) which he sings in English and Spanish. Michael Guerra’s accordion is wondrous. It’s no surprise with such a band he dabbles with a little bluegrass on “I’ll Be Back Around”, unusually a letter for his brother who’s in prison. He eventually signs off with “Think I’ll Stay” and some pure Lyle Lovett/James Taylor as a near rock n’ roller with a bluesy piano recounts his reconciliation to dancing the night away as his intended tells him “you couldn’t make me leave this hardwood floor if you tried.”

His reputation, number of awards and fanbase must grow with this album.

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