Image © Barsuk Records 2007
(09 December 2007) Seattle-born singer/songwriter Jesse Sykes presents her alt-country/folk CD Like, Love & Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul (Barsuk Records (USA) BARK62, 2007) with her raspy and husky voiced straight-up style. This is her third album and the songs contain a mournful undertone intermixed with exceptional harmonica and riveting acoustic guitar interludes. This album addresses themes of love, illusion, forgiveness, and the universality of the human experience.
The album was produced, recorded and mixed by Tucker Martine (Decemberists, The Long Winters) and Martin Feveyear (Mark Lanegan, Kings of Leon), with additional recording and production by Randall Dunn (Kinski, SunnO). Jesse's band, The Sweet Hereafter, is comprised of Jesse on vocals and acoustic guitar; Phil Wandscher on guitars, harmonica, lapsteel, keyboards and vocals; Anne Marie Ruljancich on viola and vocals; Bill Herzog on electric and upright bass and vocals; and Eric Eagle on drums and percussion. The group has been touring since 2002, playing across the USA and overseas.
The CD begins with the eerie yet tender "Eisenhower Moon." Jesse's voice is an acquired taste and on first impression, the sound took some getting used to. But, upon repeat listens, the album tends to grow on you. There is an emotive style to her music and Jesse wears her heart on her sleeve with her hushed and deliberate vocals. The album has a soulful edge mixed in with its melancholic lyrics. The standout track is "Spectral Beings," showing a tenderness and depth with the support of beautiful orchestral backing. The title track, "LLL," has a wistful yet nostalgic rhythm with wonderful guitar solos.
Guitarist Phil Wandscher certainly deserves a special mention for his exceptional guitar solos and folksy harmonica. There is an allure to Jesse's sound which can at times be mesmerizing with its bluesy riffs and lush instrumentation. She maintains a sincerity in her music combined with mature storylines.
There is a finesse to Like, Love & Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul with its deepy introspective lyrics and melancholic tones.--Audrey Elliot in New York