On My Mind / In My Heart
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Boston-based blue-eyed soul singer/songwriter/guitarist’s Alligator debut reveals an artist with unforgettable melodies, infectious grooves and fresh, slice-of-life lyrics, all punctuated by strutting horns and funky guitar. The eleven original songs are an energizing blast of positive, buoyant contemporary soul powered by Dee’s unique, effortless vocals. “Tough-but-tender soul and rollicking, rootsy R&B…infectious, revival-meeting furor” –Boston Globe
All Horn Arrangements By Scott Aruda
Recorded & Mixed by Jack Younger at Watch City Studios - Waltham, MA, watchcitystudios.com
Additional Recording at Basement 247 - Allston, MA
Mastered by Nick Zampiello & Rob Gonella at New Alliance East - Cambridge, MA, newallianceeast.com
Photography by Michael D. Spencer - mikespencerphotography.com
Design by Jesse Dee
All songs by Jesse Dee (Sinceri-Dee Music, admin. by Chomp Music, SESAC) except for track 5 by Jesse Dee + Jeremy Gustin, and track 10 by Jesse Dee + Aaron Clodfelter
Jesse Dee: Vocals / Guitar
Jim Larkin: Bass
Johnny Trama: Guitar (Tracks 2, 3, 4, 5, 11)
Matt "Pie" Beaulieu: Drums / Hand Claps
Eli Winderman: Hammond B3 organ
Steve Mossberg: Piano
John Aruda: Tenor Saxophone
Scott Aruda: Trumpet / Flugelhorn
Paul Ahlstrand: Baritone Saxophone
Jeff Galindo: Trombone
Benjamin Zecker: Vibraphone / Glockenspiel
Yahuba Garcia-Torres: Percussion
Joanie Pimental: Backing Vocals (2, 3, 4)
Rachael Price: Vocals (6)
Matthew Joy: Guitar (10)
Milt Reder: Guitar (9)
Timo Shanko: Tenor Saxophone (Solo on 9)
Randall Billion: Hand Claps
When Jesse asked me to write these liner notes, I took it as a deep honor. I have followed his career from his fledgling days as an art-student-turned-musician and a keeper of the soul flame in Boston, a city that has spawned the likes of the J. Geils Band and Donna Summer. Jesse has moved from playing small clubs in New England to gracing festival stages in Europe and opening for the likes of Al Green, Etta James, Solomon Burke, and Bettye LaVette.
Trust me; he didn't get there by guile or fakery. There is not a fake bone in Jesse Dee's body, as you'll hear in the joyously uplifting, transformative grooves on this new album.
Putting Jesse together with Alligator Records is a perfect marriage. "The label's catalog speaks for itself. It encompasses some of the best of the best in blues,'' says Jesse. "It's run by a staff of music lovers who have been there for a very long time. There's a family aspect to it that appeals to me."
The vibe is mutual, especially after Alligator president Bruce Iglauer saw Jesse's band perform an unorthodox gig in Boston-at the Rumble On The River, a rowing festival on the banks of the Charles River. Jesse blew the crowd away that day-and blew Iglauer away.
"There was a great honesty to him,'' Bruce recalls. "I wondered if he could really deliver his recorded songs live-and he did just that. There was unpretentiousness and a great, happy energy. I thought, 'Yeah, I love this!'"
Hopefully you'll feel the same away when you hear this all-original batch of songs recorded with watchful attention on analog tape and gear, the old-school way. There are hints of everything from Memphis soul to Sam Cooke-like smoothness and Otis Redding-like testifying, all stirred with Jesse's contemporary spice.
The album was coproduced by Jesse with kindred spirit Jack Younger at Watch City Studios, just outside of Boston. It features Jesse's core band of guitarist Johnny Trama, bassist Jim Larkin, drummer Matt "Pie" Beaulieu, and horn brothers Scott and John Aruda. Scott has played with The Temptations and Wilson Pickett, while John has wailed behind Boston legends Superhoney and Dwight & Nicole. Further help comes from other aces, such as saxophonist Paul Ahlstrand (who has worked with Eddie Floyd), trombonist Jeff Galindo (who has played with Ray Charles) and singers Joanie Pimental and Rachael Price, who have fronted Superhoney and Lake Street Dive, respectively. "Ultimately, it's a testament to the local crop of musicians here in Boston,'' says Jesse.
It's also a contagious victory for romantic soul music. "A lot of his music makes me smile,'' says Bruce. "His music feels like spring. It's soul music, but it's really happy soul music. It's in the tradition of Sam Cooke and Chuck Jackson. And there's a little spirit of Joe Tex in there. All of those things make me feel good."
Bruce knows that Alligator hasn't always been recognized for such music. "I've been known for recording a lot of anti-sentimental music, but Jesse is clearly a romantic-a guy who believes in love,'' he says. "You can hear it in his music."
Jesse is flattered by that remark. "Love is an emotion that everyone can relate to,'' he adds. "And those are the songs that people are still singing. Those are the ones that last." Jesse is also pleased with the comparison to Sam Cooke ("one of the greatest examples of what I want to embody as a musician") and Chuck Jackson ("I like the specific pocket of music he came up in-the East Coast sound when R&B started melding with pop music").
Jesse is still young, but he's ready to stake his claim in the soul music arc. He is aware of the masters, and also of latter-day acts like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and James Hunter. One thing you can be sure of is that he won't be outworked. Jesse has been to Europe "eight or nine times in the past few years,'' he says. And on off nights in Boston, he can be found sitting in with the likes of Tim Gearan, The B3 Kings, The Sea Monsters and Dennis Brennan-some of the finest local acts the city has to offer.
"This is a way of life,'' he states. "In this day and age, you have to love it. If you don't, it doesn't make any sense to do it, especially given the state of the economy and the industry itself. Also, my sanity has a direct connection to how often I perform."
Bravo, Jesse, for saying that. And good luck. If anyone has earned it, it's you.
(Steve Morse is a former staff critic for nearly 30 years at The Boston Globe who has also contributed to Billboard and Rolling Stone. He served for seven years on the nominating committee for The Rock and Rock Hall of Fame and currently teaches an online course in Rock History at Berklee College of Music.)
Thanks to all the music fans out there! And special thanks to those of you that helped fund this album through your generous donations. You made it happen! My respect and admiration for the musicians on this record only continues to grow. Thank you for your friendship, and for your talent that can be heard recorded within these songs. I'm lucky to make music with you all! There are far too many others to thank on this little page. But here is a start: Kevin Baker, Jack Younger, Pledge Music, Bruce lglauer, Alligator Records, Jason Kitayama, Jayce Varden, Matt Lydon, Ben Mattijssen, Arnold Wegner, Andrew Mazzone, Tim Mason, Nick Zampiello, Rob Gonella, Munich Records, Boston Eventworks, Julien de Lauzun, Ophelia Management, Brian Jonas, Huggy Pommier, Thomas Hopman, Sue Williams, Nadia + Dom S-D, Bruno Migliano, Grazziano Uliani, Steve Morse, Ed Valaskaus, Ken Cmar, Adam Lewis, Matt Smith, Billy Beard, Atwoods Tavern, Robert Elliot, Michael Shevloff, Go Records, Sandman Music, Chris Howerton, Ryan Montbleau Band, Dwight Ritcher + Nicole Nelson, Lake Street Dive, Christian McNeill, Tim Gearan, Dennis Brennan, Tim Pike, Duke Levine, Michael Miksis, Qwill, Kevin O'Brien, Lyle Brewer, James Hazelwood, Jeremy Gustin, Kevin Barry, Rusty Scott, Milt Reder, Mike Tucker, Mikie Martel, James Hunter + Band, Corrina Greyson, Paul Janovitz, Forrest Plassman, Dan Catapano, Mark Sexton, Michael Spencer, Jeff Wallace, Aaron Clodfelter, Norm Miller, all the good people that make up the "Camberville" music scene, and so many more...
Much love and infinite gratitude to my beautiful family, and to my dearest Sarah, who has my heart. Your love and support has always been paramount.
This record has been a large labor of a whole lot o' love. Thanks for listening. Please enjoy it!
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