Of all the
singer/songwriter types to emerge from the fertile environs of the late ‘60s
and early ‘70s, few have had as troubled a trajectory as Jesse Winchester. As the unwitting celebrity poster boy for
draft evasion during the Vietnam War, Winchester spent the most productive part
of his career holed up in exile in Montreal, unable to fully capitalize on the
acclaim he garnered from his early essential albums. As a result, he developed a kind of elusive
mystique, emphasized all the more by the songs he contributed to the musical
mainstream – “Yankee Lady,” “Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” “Biloxi,” “Payday” and
“Talk Memphis” among the many. His 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American
Society of Composters, Artists and Publishers belatedly affirmed his
impact hasn’t always been so obvious. Following those initial efforts
throughout the ‘70s, Winchester’s output became increasingly sparse. His last studio album was nearly ten years
ago, and in the decade since, the only new releases he’s managed have been an
occasional live recording. So it’s with
no small amount of anticipation that that his followers greet Winchester’s return on Love Filling Station, an album that effectively reaffirms his rural
trappings and homespun decorum. Recorded
in Nashville, it doesn’t stray far from the city’s musical environs, thanks
mostly to its easy-going saunter and sway.
The countrified strum of “O What A Thrill” (previously covered by the
Mavericks), the funkified stammer of “Wear Me Out” and the down home designs of
“Loose Talk” testify to that unassuming attitude. Likewise, Winchester stretches his
parameters, but only ever so slightly, vamping with jazzy affectations on
“Lonely For A While” and offering up some fiddle-fueled gospel on the
freewheeling “Far Side Bank Of Jordan.” Even a well-worn cover like Ben E.
King’s “Stand By Me” becomes revitalized and resurrected.
With Winchester being away so long, merely having
him back in contention offers ample reward in itself. Always an essential artist, Winchester proves he’s as engaged as ever.
Standout Tracks: “Bless Your Foolish Heart,” “I’m Gonna Miss You
Girl” LEE ZIMMERMAN