Reviews

Jesse Dayton: The Hard Way Blues Review

Jesse Dayton is an all-Americana musician who exhibits his Texan roots with a mix of country, rock, and blues. His music often draws from his outlaw country roots for which he’s gained recognition on his collaborations with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. His musical prowess is once again exemplified by focalizing his gritty voice and first-class blue collar guitar pickin’ on his tenth studio album, The Hard Way Blues, produced by Shooter Jennings. The troubadours seemingly pulled this album together effortlessly, having recorded it in less than a week. 

“The Hard Way” is a soulful track that captures the essence of traditional country music while infusing it with Dayton’s own unique style. The song is hallmarked with powerful vocals, twangy guitar riffs, and reflective and storytelling lyrics that describe the rawness of life’s challenges and the resilience needed to overcome them. Dayton authentically preaches about learning the hard way. “The Hard Way” is the first single off the album in addition to the first song on the album, showing listeners exactly why he is a Grammy nominee from the first note. 

“Night Brain” begins with an acoustic haunting resonance of blues chords while Dayton’s rich, sultry vocals complement the quintessential sound of the south. The beat suddenly, and without warning, intensifies into a rock n roll vibe as Dayton is accompanied by a chorus of instruments while he passionately sings about the looming fear of losing everything, juxtaposed with the relentless ticking of a clock. The myriad of anxieties that plague the mind during sleepless nights strikes a chord of deep resonance on a profound level.

“Talkin Company Man Blues” is a melodic tapestry weaving together elements of smoothness, soulfulness, and sinister allure. Beneath its catchy rhythm lies a deeper narrative, one that delves into the repercussions of capitalism, where the smooth-talking protagonist symbolizes the exploitative nature of corporate culture. Through its lyrics and evocative melody, “Talkin’ Company Man Blues” portrays the struggles and frustrations of those who resist being mere pawns in the game of corporate greed. “Talkin’ Company Man Blues” draws attention to how deceit intertwines with the allure of success by being tainted by the harsh reality of exploitation. In my opinion, this song is complementary to that of another song on The Hard Way Blues. “Navasota” paints a vivid picture of small-town conservatism and the yearning for adventure, who is likely to run into a company man along the way. Through “Navasota,” listeners are invited on a journey through time and space, where the echoes of the past intersect with the rhythms of the present, creating a deeply immersive and unforgettable musical experience. “Navasota” could, frankly, be written from the perspective of someone who was once a hot-shot turned victim by the smooth-talking businessman. 

On the note of tragedies past, John Prine’s passing was a tragic loss for country music lovers. Dayton channeled his grief by writing “Angel In My Pocket.” You can hear the honor and pride as the lyrics unfold in a heartfelt missive from a traveling troubadour to their beloved kin back home. “Angel in My Pocket” is imbued with tender emotion and soul-stirring melodies just as John gave us, may he rest in peace.

Going south of the border, “Esther Pearl” transports listeners to the tumultuous era of the mid-1800s, recounting the courageous tale of a Haitian immigrant aiding runaway slaves on the perilous journey of the Underground Railroad. Dayton’s sonorous baritone voice, weathered by the passage of time, lends a gruff authenticity to the song, infusing it with both eerie suspense and exhilarating fervor.

Each track on The Hard Way Blues is a testament to Dayton’s intelligent and virtuosic storytelling framework wherein tales of love, courage, and the human spirit with a masterful blend of tradition and innovation are woven together. 

The Review: 8/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– The Hard Way
– Night Brain
– Huntsville Prison Rodeo
– Talkin’ Company Man Blues
– Esther Pearl

The Big Hit 

– Night Brain

Allison Scavo

Allison Scavo is a concert photographer local to Kansas City who travels all over the country capturing photos of live music. She has experience in all genres and events of all themes. Allison is an avid fan of music, specifically its historical relevance, developmental importance, and magical entertainment. She tries to show her appreciation by taking snapshots of musicians as they embody the definition of talent.

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