Reviews

Between the Grooves: Authenticity Reigns Supreme for Jesse Daniel on Debut

By Jonathon Oost

Jesse Daniel hails from a Ben Lomond, California, a small mountain town in Santa Cruz County. The landscape, divorce, hard work, and humble beginnings shaped his adolescent years. The anger and frustration from his circumstances likely lead him to finding his place in the punk scene, where pissed off kids leaned on each other when no one at home truly understood how they felt. He began touring in punk bands and enjoying the harder side of the partying lifestyle that is so easy to become immersed in, the music world can be a death trap for many, with booze, drugs, and women being celebrated as a tradition or initiation to the rockstar life.

The drugs got harder and the arrests and rehab stints got more frequent. Happenstance had him in a rehab located Oakland where he overheard a gentleman playing old Hank Williams tunes, he was mesmerized and knew what he needed to do. Writing songs became his drug of choice and a $50 pawn shop Fender became the vessel in which he expressed them to the world. Country, punk, blues, hip hop, etc, what do they all have in common? At their purest form they are raw human emotions on the end of an arrow that is headed straight for your heart. Music lovers say they love authenticity, well it doesn’t get anymore authentic than Jesse Daniel’s self-titled debut. Let’s take a trip between the grooves.

Slide the LP out of its sleeve, which displays a beautiful piece of artwork by artist Matt Wilkins. Carefully place it onto the turntable, turn it on, and lower that needle until one hears the hiss, pops, and crackles. Adjust the volume knob just a little bit louder, grab a drink, sit back and enjoy Side A.

Jesse Daniel’s debut starts playing, no need to adjust the turntable that sound one hears is just Jesse giving us all something familiar with the tuning of a radio for ambiance. “California Highway” starts playing and transports the listener to an open road, where one drives the pain away because your better half just split without warning, probably because they’re sick of your shit, and the only cure is a long drive and sad country music. 

The song comes to an end and moves into “Big Fish” a “screw you” to those who downplayed and mocked his ambition and a warning to those who maybe could stand to be a little more humble about their place in society, including himself “Outside of that small pond baby, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

The loneliness from the first song is creeping back in with “Hell Bent,” confessing that he is “Hell bent on loving you,” we’ve all been there, right? Whatever has to be said to get them back, so we don’t have to lay in that cold bed by ourselves anymore. It’s a rollicking tune that is familiar, but relatable, territory in country music.

“Comin’ Down Again” is pure country like your daddy used to listen to with crying guitars and slow drum beat. The pain in Jesse’s voice becomes apparent as he looks back on lonely and miserable nights in some run down motel room, trying his damndest to get off drugs, again. There’s a fire we have to go through to better ourselves and it’s rarely a fun experience, but one that is always worth the pain and gives forth to great music.

“The Banker” lightens things up a bit, with a scenario that, if we’re honest, we’ve all wished for in desperate times. Somebody took one for the team and ran over the banker, who was obviously carrying large amounts of cash, and now everyone in the street is scooping up fistfuls of cash and stuffing it anywhere they can to take home. As the chorus sings “Money ain’t worth nothin’ when you’re dead.”

*Click* the arm on your turntable slowly lifts off of the record, Side A finished. Flip the record over, fill ones glass, lower that needle down one more time, and sit back and soak in Side B.

The crown jewel of this album kicks in with a hard rocking country song that deserves to have praise heaped on it. “Soft Spot (For the Hard Stuff)” may get one out of their seat and singing along to a song they’ve never heard before. Why do we love the shit that will eventually kill us? Is it a rebel mentality or just plain self sabotage? Either way, bad decisions create the best stories and this one is no different.

“Killing Time ‘Til Time Kills Me” mellows out the record with some beautiful and simple guitar pickin,’ just before Jesse channels his inner Jerry Lee Lewis and goes hog wild on “Gracie Henrietta.” It’s a barn burner of a song that may result in a spilled drink when this one kicks into high gear with the neighbor knocking on the door yelling to quiet down.

“SR-22” is about that guy we’ve probably seen walking to his construction gig in his boots or riding a moped around town, because he couldn’t contain himself from getting liquored up and driving himself home “He let that liquor get the best of him, his drivin’ days are through.”

As the album closes, we get the most heartfelt song on the record “Looks Like Rain.” A song that tugs on the heartstrings with vivid storytelling about time, pain, and trying to right some past wrongs “I can’t rewrite the history books, but I’ll damn sure do my best.” *Click* the arm lifts slowly from the vinyl again and this time one just sits and ponders on the many different aspects of life, which is what good country music does. 

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Jonathan Oost

Jonathan Oost

Jonathan Oost was born and raised in Owensboro, KY. Home of the International Bluegrass HOF & Museum and the best BBQ mutton in the world. About 20 minutes from the birthplace of Bill Monroe and The Everly Brothers, the area has a rich musical heritage, affording Jonathan the opportunities to expand his musical pallet and experience some of the best Bluegrass and Country pickers in the world.
Jonathan Oost

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