Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jesse Sykes – Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls of the Soul

   Folk rock has always been a niche genre, existing somewhere between straight rock and purely folk oriented projects. For some utilitarian reasons folk music was always better in connection with narrative songs like ballads or chanson. The equilibrium is the point occupied by some greatest personalities like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and others. Around them exists the whole spectrum of various bands from blues rock to country rock and from psychedelic to contemporary Christian music. Connections between them can be really strange, and sometimes this is the best way to achieve traditionally involved but still creative effect.
   One of such artists undoubtedly is Jesse Sykes known together with the band as Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter. The leader, Jesse Sykes, a singer and songwriter from Seattle is one of most interesting personalities in modern folk scene. She is the author of lyrics and music for most of the repertoire of the band. These are some purely poetic songs she sings with characteristic, deep voice. Probably this is the kind of singing that gave her the position of alternative country performer. And the best album in their discography is published Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls of the Soul published by Southern Lord in 2007.

Jesse Sykes – Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul (2007)

   Considering artistic qualities of their records, especially this double LP album, it’s not easy to understand why Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter are virtually not known worldwide. Maybe the only Americana the rest of the world can accept are these iconic phenomena who are really override the circulation of the music scene. Singing with slightly husky voice, building distanced performances Jesse Sykes is still an artist waiting to be disclosed. Poetic, sometimes psychedelic lyrics she writes are clear visions of the individual and common issues. Thank to these features Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter are a brilliant example of crossover between psychedelic rock, folk rock and alternative country.

Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter – Like, Love, Lust

   Jesse Sykes has this kind of enchanting personality making every lecture a strong emotional experience, she sings with outstripped but expressive voice, sometimes reaching almost a whispering cry but never unambiguous, not explicit but clear. The second pillar of The Sweet Hereafter is guitarist Phil Wandscher who is also coauthoring with Jesse Sykes some songs. He is guitarist of great perfection and powerful sound. Musicians of the band are also Anne Marie Ruljancich, playing viola and singing, bassist Bill Herzog, drummer Eric Eagle and more than a dozen of other session musicians – between them one can find Wayne Horvitz playing Hammond B-3 on Like, Love, Lust and How Will We Know? There is also a choir of more than dozen voices in The Air Is Thin.

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   I have to admit, when I put the heavy vanilla record on my turntable for the first time, I was just spellbound – with colors, with sound, with words, with softness and intensity of these songs. Few years later the charm still works and I am still deeply impressed. Everything here is natural and meaningful. And this is something what is giving Jesse Sykes’ songs this chilling factor. The songs of happiness and fears, poems about love and parting, words of wisdom and desire are a constant and natural motives in all cultures. Good metaphors are crossing the borders, becoming a universal vehicle for human thoughts and emotions. Is this starting or finishing point? There is no absolute answer for this question, maybe the child that follows us on that shadowless drive beneath the empty sky will help. Surely I hope it will.

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