Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jesse Winchester: “Seems Like Only Yesterday: Live In Montreal 1976” (2015) CD Review

Last year saw the release of the final studio album from Jesse Winchester. A Reasonable Amount Of Trouble was released in September, five months after Winchester’s death. But that, of course, doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last from this seriously talented singer and songwriter. Seems Like Only Yesterday: Live In Montreal 1976 captures a performance that was broadcast live in both Canada and the United States (the first time a concert was broadcast internationally via FM stereo). Recorded in front of an audience in a small Montreal studio on October 13, 1976, this album features mostly original material from his first five albums. And this marks the first official release of this performance.

The CD includes the introduction as a separate track, which is presented first in French and then in English, mentioning the U.S. cities that were able to hear the performance live – Boston, New York, Hartford, Providence, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C.  Jesse Winchester then kicks off the show with the fun, bluesy rock number, “Laisse Les Bons Temps Rouler (Let The Good Times Roll)” from Learn To Love It. He introduces “Silly Heart” by saying, “The next tune that we’re going to play is kind of a little love song sung by someone, a hypothetical someone, who’s not particularly happy, to someone who seems to be enjoying him or herself on this earth.” “Silly Heart” has a bright, bouncy feel, with a touch of reggae to its rhythm. This song was originally on Jesse Winchester’s second album, Third Down, 110 To Go.

Also from Third Down, 110 To Go is the fun country rock tune, “Midnight Bus,” with the line “I’m young and I’m curious.” This is one of my favorite tracks, and is a perfect one for a road trip mix CD. Another of my favorites is “Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” a song from his first album. This is such a gorgeous song, and I want to put it on a mix right after Leonard Cohen’s rendition of “Tennessee Waltz.” Check out these lines, which open the song: “Oh my, but you have a pretty face/Why, you favor a girl that I knew/And I imagine that she is back in Tennessee, lord/And by God, I should be there too/'Cause I've a sadness that's too sad to be true.” And this line is just perfect: “Because love is mainly just memories, you see.” This is an excellent song, and this rendition features some good work on pedal steel guitar by Ron Dann.

After that song, Jesse introduces the band, then goes into in the fun and silly country rock song “Let The Rough Side Drag.” This one features some nice work by Jesse on piano. The lines that stood out for me the first time I listened to it (and which are still my favorite lines) are: “It’s a good thing to be young and strong/Such a good thing that we’re not old for long/What a good thing that making love is so much fun.”

“All Of Your Stories” is another highlight, and another that features nice work by Jesse on piano. It’s so beautiful and moving. I definitely have a weakness for this song, and particularly for this rendition (which I think is better than the original album version). Here is a taste of the lyrics: “You sorry old soldier, go home/You sorry old bad girl, go home/’Cause by now you've seen it all/Just relax now and recall/All your stories forever and ever/Well, who will stand by you, no one/No brother and no cousin, no one.” The backing vocals joining him on “no one” somehow make it even sadder. And I love these lines: “If you lit up the occasional candle/You're allowed the occasional curse.”

I like the joke about legalization in “Twigs And Seeds.” And then in his introduction to the following song, “Isn’t That So,” he says, “where you sort of tell yourself that it’s all right if you be bad, because the lord is an all-forgiving father,” then adds, “But we’ve got no proof of that, do we?” And from a song about pot, he goes to song that includes a joke about alcohol, with the line, “Because his own son got a reputation/Just from turning water right into wine.” Great, right?

One of the few covers on this release is “Bowling Green,” the Everly Brothers song. Jesse Winchester’s rendition is quite a bit slower, with a sweet, nostalgic vibe. One of the other covers is “Seems Like Only Yesterday,” the song that gives this album its title, a very cool country tune written by Stoney Edwards. He also covers “I Can’t Stand Up Alone,” a song written by Martha Carson and done by Clyde McPhatter, performing it basically a cappella (with hand-claps).

The CD concludes with “Blow On, Chilly Wind,” a sweet tune from Let The Rough Side Drag.

CD Track List
  1. Introduction
  2. Laissee Les Bons Temps Rouler (Let The Good Times Roll)
  3. Silly Heart
  4. Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt
  5. Bowling Green
  6. Midnight Bus
  7. Everybody Knows But Me
  8. Brand New Tennessee Waltz
  9. Let The Rough Side Drag
  10. All Of Your Stories
  11. Seems Like Only Yesterday
  12. Mississippi You’re On My Mind
  13. Black Dog
  14. Twigs And Seeds
  15. Isn’t That So
  16. Yankee Lady
  17. I Can’t Stand Up Alone
  18. Blow On, Chilly Wind
Seems Like Only Yesterday: Live In Montreal 1976 was released on April 7, 2015 through Real Gone Music and Rhino Entertainment Company.

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