Jesse Terry - When We Wander
New England-raised singer-songwriter Jesse Terry’s seventh album was delayed by Covid, but the wait has been well worthwhile. Recorded in Nashville two years ago, it was due to be released in the spring of 2020 to coincide with extensive touring across North America and Europe. Touring has been Jesse’s life for the past ten years. Along with his wife Jess and more recently their daughter Lilly, they would spend more than 150 days each year on the road across America, playing all kinds of gigs from small coffee houses to large festivals. That way of life is spread all through this album, with the songs reflecting life on the road, the onset of becoming first-time parents and the doubts and hopes that weave through all relationships. Over an impressively expansive 42-minute run time, Jesse employs rich imagery and delves deep into personal and universal themes to create a work that is timeless and eerily beautiful. He excavates the complexity of his emotional landscapes, wrapping them in both vibrant and dreamy musical arrangements. Lyrically, he conveys heartache, a sense of loss, regret, self-doubt and the everyday challenges of growing up and finding a place in the world. The combination of die-hard devotion and a well-tethered template allows him to maintain both his deeply emotional attitude and a clear conviction that serves even the more modest material, exceptionally well.
For the first time, Jesse recorded ‘live’ in the studio, working alongside producer Neil Hubbard, who also plays drums. He’s supported by some of Nashville’s finest musicians, including the always inventive Will Kimbrough (guitar, mandolin), Eamon McLoughlin (violin), Dean Marold (bass), Juan Solorzanao (lap steel), Josh Kaler (pedal steel), Danny Mitchell (piano, harmonica) with Liz Longley and Mia Rose Lynne providing exquisite vocal harmonies. Together they allow the title track to roll forth via a kind of celebration of serendipity, supplemented by a jaunty delivery, swirling steel, wistful harmonies and no small helping of his unyielding optimism. Recounting the free-spirit of their touring life-style, this is full of passionate memories of what can be achieved if you are surrounded by a loving and supportive family, whilst pursuing a dream. Pretty Good Hand is an easy and amenable song that allows for a clear connection and a sense of familiarity even when hearing the song for the first time. Propelled by fiddle and steel in a smooth country arrangement, it’s another optimistic song about a shared and supportive love. Delicate finger-picked guitar sets the tone for Ghost Stories, leading into haunting strings as the confessional lyrics unwind with unabashed openness.
The measure of any great song, and what can truly make it timeless, is when a lyric and melody can speak purely and nakedly to the human condition. Hymn Of A Summer Night hits it on every mark. A nostalgic look back at the rebellious and often bittersweet innocence of teenage years that, though personal to him, should resonate universally to all born romantics. There’s an undercurrent of desperation flowing through Stranger In Our Town, with a hint of Jackson Browne in a song about giving up the road and maybe settling down into suburban ideology. If I Were The Moon is a gorgeous lullaby for his daughter with an exquisite arrangement surrounding his smooth-as-silk vocal delivery, that’s full of heartfelt fatherly love. The lyrics of In Spite Of You evoke someone in search of himself, but more than that, someone searching for redemption from his traumatic teenage years; the good and the ugly, pleasure and pain and moving forward into a better life.
Jesse Terry turns both happy and sad life periods into narrative songs that strike right at the heart. He dials back the time and reaches deep into his soul and leaning on the aesthetic of country-tinged pop, to render interior emotions in giant, widescreen compositions bursting with colour. Hip and retro, all at the same time, he has created a sound that is one-of-a-kind, easy on the ear, while speaking to the heart.