Review of Jesse Stone’s Break of Day: Montreal to NY via Folk

Gary Golembiewski Photography — at East Village, New York, New York. Gary Golembiewski Photography — at East Village, New York, New York.

Jesse Stone is a singer-songwriter from the West Island of Montreal and currently living in New York City. His latest album, Break of Day, starts off with the banger Love On the Charles and I wish the rest of the album maintained its upbeat rockabilly sound. It reminds me of Blood & Wine on Dustin Kensrue’s Please Come Home album. Break of Day has a lot in common with that album as a whole. The next track, Promises is less edgy and has more of a straight country sound. The bright horns throughout the track are its biggest strength. Fisherman is focused around an electric guitar part that would sound right at home on a Johnny Cash song. Jesse’s rougher than usual voice and the use of a harmonica is reminiscent of Bob Dylan on this track.

The list of classic country and folk artists that Break of Day pays homage to is likely endless but it’s worth noting that they would all be American. Assuming that music, or any art, is a window into the soul of the person creating it, it’s not at all surprising that Jesse decided to move south of the border. Expertly walking a fine line, nothing about this reinvention of these classic American styles sounds contrived. It could be a result of our current culture’s perception of the time in which songs like these were first popular, but this album seems to be drenched in honest naïveté.

Don’t Come Around pairs music that feels like the soundtrack to a lazy summer day out in the sun with lyrics heavily steeped in sadness and loneliness. The melancholy violin part at 2:30 is gorgeous and devastating, in part because of the heavy drums behind it. The tone shifts drastically and almost ironically with the following song, Don’t Change. The upbeat drums and bright honky-tonk style keyboard parts fit well with the song’s uplifting message of unapologetic individuality. The song also features the album’s second lyrical reference to Montreal, name-dropping the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, referred to only as the Douglas for brevity’s sake.

As with most nostalgia-driven music Break of Day lost my attention eventually, the only exceptions being Life Is a Lonely Road with its impressive multiple vocalist approach and upbeat drums, violin and banjo and The Letter which sounds like a long-lost Elvis Presley track. Fortunately, the album doesn’t last much longer and you’re left with the pleasant sensation of having travelled down rock ‘n roll’s collective memory lane.

The album’s high notes would certainly slay in a live setting and thankfully Jesse is returning home for a show at La Sala Rossa on February 20th at 8pm. Fellow nostalgia folk/country/bluegrass punks and my favourite local band, Po Lazarus will be opening the show for what will undoubtedly be a wild night you don’t want to miss.