Photo: Bret Hartman
In country music, one way to judge the quality of a song or album is to ask yourself what a country legend might think of it. In the case of Jesse Daniels Beyond The Walls, I'm confident Tom T. Hall and Don Williams would approve of the way it helps to re-set your perspective on the simpler things in life. I think George Strait and Alan Jackson would appreciate the way Jesse has a no-nonsense, no-nonsense approach to country. When it comes to The Mavericks' legendary Raul Malo, we don't have to assume what he thinks of Jesse Daniel, who invades Tejano on this record. By appearing on it ourselves, we know that Raul agrees.
Jesse Daniel was the former punk rocker and drug addict who used country music to clean up and put his nose in the right direction. That created a lot of intrigue and interesting content for his first records. But the next question is, what do you write about when you've given up all your wild ways and resigned yourself to a much quieter, simpler life, dare we say "boring"? Well the answer is you write about it and the virtues that lie in that change of pace.
That's what you greet in the opening parts of Jesse's third album, Beyond These Walls – one song called "Simple Things," another about lazing around on "Texas Summer Night," and another about wasting time fishing called "Drop A." . ". Line. "These songs are not about much, but on the other hand they are about everything important, namely slowing down, appreciating life and enjoying the easy joys that time on earth offers instead of being overwhelmed by envy and anger .
In addition to these important resets in perspective, Jesse Daniel also delivers a veritable honky-tonk scorcher in "Think I'll Stay". Though it doesn't seem like anything special at first glance, Jesse uses tried and true modes and turns, but Jesse makes a song that will likely get you ramming your boot through the floor and stamping out the beat if you're not careful. This could be the best song released in the past few years.
And for an album that is one of its greatest assets as clinging to the roots of country music, it actually has an extra dose of spice. It's not surprising to find a country record these days that contains a silly pseudo-Mexican ode to being smashed across the border. But instead of just adding a little accordion and maracas to a country song and adding references to “Cervezas”, Jesse Daniel actually writes and sings an entire song in Spanish in the workers' anthem “El Trabajador”, accompanied by Raul Malo himself.
He takes up this style again in the (predominantly) English sung "Soñando Contigo", which is one of two high-quality love songs on the album, the other is "Angel on the Ground" – not a completely new premise, but one that Jesse revitalizes with intelligent writing, aided by his real life angel, co-writer, harmony singer and daily manager, Jodi Lyford. All great artists often have an ace in the hole, and for Jesse, it's Jodi.
But let's be honest, as you work through this album you start to be a little apprehensive that it won't provide enough depth to stimulate all of the erogenous zones of your musical palette to stay in your listening rotation beyond a few revolutions. Songs about fishing and summer nights are fine, but they can only hold up your attention span that long. And while the effort is admirable, you may simply not know or appreciate the Spanish language or style enough to make this country album noteworthy to you.
That's when Jesse Daniel coaxes two of the best-written songs on the album from you in the current and relevant “Living in the Great Divide” about the fork of America, and then the heartbreaking “Gray” about this guy we all know his rowdy kind never gave up and paid more for it every day Based on the wisdom of his own experiences, Jesse Daniel proves in the final stages of this record that he is not just an entertainer, but an artist.
And to top it off, Jesse Daniel ends the album with a bluegrass number on "I'll Be Back Around". Well produced by Tommy Detamore and played by a top team of professional guys, Beyond These Walls states that Jesse Daniel should no longer be seen as the future of country music. It should be seen as the present.
1 3/4 arms high.
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