If you didn’t make it out to Jessie Brown’s CD release party at Michael’s this past Friday ya didn’t miss much…only one of the most solid local rock ‘n roll shows of all times!
K, maybe not all times, but show of the month for sure.
A full house from start to finish danced and shouted along to The Stogies opening set, Carmen Townsend’s headlining show and of course Brown’s combustible performance in between. It was truly a night fueled by classic rock homage and peace ‘n’ love among players, friends and willing participants.
The reason everyone showed up (at least the reason we’re running with) was Ms. Brown’s self-titled debut album. If you’ve been following GUFF over the last couple of weeks then it’s no friggin’ secret that we dig everything about Jessie Brown and her band. Today I sat and listened to her record from start to finish. Then I listened to it again…and again. Needless to say any work I was aiming to finish or start this afternoon was put on the back burner (more like, put in Tupperware dishes and tossed back in the fridge for tomorrow. What a ***king album!).
Rather than take you through each tune individually and ruining your listening experience, I’ll give you the highlights, the Cliff’s notes, the gist, as it were.
Her opening track and first single “Bordello” definitely sets the tone for an emotionally driven album full of dramatic instrumentation and explosive, reflective, introspective lyrical content and strength. Not to mention Brown’s badass vocal range. I love how minimalist a lot of tracks sound in the right places. And being done on tape, they all have a classic rock feel and texture.
“The album was actually recorded before I found the band. The recording was done with Rob Crowell (Deer Tick, Diamond Rugs). Adrian (Dunn) and I. Adrian on guitar, I did some keys and the vocals and Rob played almost everything else,” says Brown.
Crowell is becoming better known for his production work, having previously worked with Gloryhound, Stone Mary and some other up-and-coming Halifax bands. He’s also one of those assholes who can play seventeen different instruments better than you can play your one. The work Crowell put into Brown’s record is tight, fluid and above all else attractive to the ear. “Not only did he play drums, bass, synth and keys, he produced the project too,” Brown says. Also appearing on the album are Larry Bjornson (stand-up bass) and Eric Landry (trombone). The project was recorded with Charles Austin and Dave Ewenson at the Echo Chamber in Halifax. “We wanted everything done analogue. Charles and Dave are amazing with tape.”
Call it an EP, call it an LP, call it a hamburger, call it whatever you want; either way it’s one smokin’ eight song piece of art. Tracks to pay attention to are the anger driven “Sticks and Stones” and the love song “City’s Disorder.” The former is a gritty, in-your-face rock tune that if you were walking down the street you might walk with a bit more purpose for those two minutes and twenty-one seconds, then hit repeat so you don’t look like a tool slowing down in mid-stride. Mixed well and full of musical drama when the song reaches its plateau your brain is longing for it. A very well crafted tune.
The track, “City’s Disorder”, is a tale of a troubled, down and out hooligan who feels lost and alone. And wouldn’t ya know it, all he needed was a good gal to hold his hand and wipe the drool from his chin in the morning. A lilting track again steeped in emotion with theatrical piano, Brown builds and builds with her voice moving up and down her scales like a vocal elevator. She’s tantalizing in spots and powerful in others and always, always tasteful with her voice.
I wasn’t expecting the last track to take me by surprise. Brown’s twist on a Bill Withers song “Hope She’ll Be Happier” (her version titled, “Hope He’ll Be Happier”) is delicate, with only vocals and piano, but boys, oh boys, what strength and dynamics. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Brown’s voice is truly something to revel in. A voice that is very much her own style wise, her power resembles Adele or maybe Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine) fused with Alannah Myles’ attitude and Joplin’s sass sprinkled over the mix. Musically, think White Stripes and Wolfmother meet Led Zeppelin and The Band.
No matter how you slice it, this record is one spicy meatball! You can listen to and then buy it here for $8. Be sure to check your local music magazine for the band’s upcoming summer tour dates as they’ll be rippin’ around the Maritimes in June and July and heading to Quebec and Ontario in August.
- Dave Lidstone
- Photos by Andrew Donovan and Jess Spoto