When you’re young, the whole world is new. You don’t have opinions on many things because you haven’t experienced them. But as you age, one of many side effects is opinions. Opinions on everything. They start large and important but gradually get smaller and more petty. It begins with something as big as the meaning of life but gradually comes to encompass minutiae, like the legitimacy of the NBA’s three-point shot, appropriate hot dog condiments, and the best way to fold towels. The process ultimately ends with what makes for a proper death rattle. But before one gets to that final opinion, there’s lots of ground to cover. For me, a commonly (over)expressed opinion is the importance of rhythm guitar, and why it’s often erroneously less respected than soloing. Which is why Jamie Lynn Vessels’ Storm Coming made me so happy. It’s a veritable clinic on rhythm guitar.
Vessels is a singer/songwriter/guitarist, with a deep, powerful voice in the vein of Janis Joplin. The cover of Storm Coming features her holding a Les Paul and wearing a leather vest. That image usually makes me nervous, as it tends to correlate with almost incessant guitar playing (except when it doesn’t), but the strength of her second album is the rhythm work, which drives the album, providing robust support for a very nice voice, but also almost obviating the need for bass and drums. Her rhythms are just that good, keeping songs moving forward without overpowering them, and, of course, maintaining a perfect tempo that lets the songs breathe but also gives it an urgency.
In addition to blues rock tracks, Vessels explores quite a lot of pop and pop ballads. They range from jazzy, like “Dear Love,” which features a theatrical melody over a gentle riff, to full-on power ballads, like the surprisingly enjoyable “Haunted Soul,” which is reminiscent of “All Along the Watchtower,” if Hendrix had covered it in the 1980s. “Burn” and “For Him,” the album’s final two songs, are both acoustic and both feature strings. They’re similarly poppy, sounding not unlike Pink tracks. Both songs work, but they feel a bit disjointed from the rest of the album, especially since they’re the concluding tracks.
Vessels is also a more-than-capable lead guitarist. The guitar playing across the album is strong, but it’s the rhythm guitar that catches your ear. As good as it is, it would be even better hearing Vessels with a dirtier tone that cuts through the mix a bit more and maybe even mirrors the richness and depth of her voice. She’s an incredibly nuanced guitarist who will no doubt find herself in future lectures in defense of the lost art of rhythm guitar. And now onto the importance of mustard…
The Review: 7/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Haunted Soul
– I Got Trouble
– Storm Coming
The Big Hit
– Storm Coming
Review by Steven Ovadia