JBM – Stray Ashes

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Truly heartfelt emotion is difficult to insert into a song, but it seems that Jesse Marchant, aka JBM, really excels in this sphere of the musical world.  His newest album, Stray Ashes (Western Vinyl) is soaked with emotion, and a lot of that has to do with Marchant’s voice, but he also implements careful accents to each song, giving listeners with an active ear pure joy.

Make no mistake about it, listening to Stray Ashes is probably going to leave you in a sullen/somber mood; there’s very few tracks that could even be described as upbeat, but that’s what will enable listeners to completely lose themselves in the work of Marchant. “Only Now,” which is a piano driven tune, is one of the few numbers on the record that I could see as even remotely light-hearted, and that revolved around the mood created by the pounding piano (and the brief drill of the snare drum). Still, Marchant’s vocals do their best to sway you away from feeling light-hearted; it’s as if he wants you to sink into the tracks, just as he dove into writing them, lost in his own world.  “Forests” is the other tune that I feel has a brighter quality.  I really enjoy the opening guitar line, and the way it sort of trickles in and out of your consciousness as you go to focus on Jesse’s voice; this song is my personal favorite.

Clearly, JBM‘s art is personal; you don’t write songs of this sort without completely investing your soul in the composition.  So when listening, it’s hard not to look deep inside of these songs, and yet close examination just lets you lose yourself in the construction of the song.  For instance, the opener, “Ferry” has this shaker that comes in and out of the track, then disappears, only to be replaced by a thinly veiled backing vocal.  Each time I listen, I try to search to see where, or if, they overlap, and each time, I’m more and more involved in the track; well played Jesse Marchant.  This a theme throughout the entirety of Stray Ashes, which is what helps you escape the occasionally monotonous tones of Jesse’s voice, which, by the way, I can’t entirely place.  It’s definitely familiar and been referenced to Jim James, but I’m not sure that’s what I’m thinking.  Anyways, aside, aside. Even the gently strummed tracks like “You Always Keep Around” or “Crooked Branches” have these faint flourishes (slide guitar, random percussion, etc) that are barely audible, but they’ll guide you to the immeasurable joy you’ll take out of each individual song; I can attest to this.

Initially, I couldn’t get into Stray Ashes as a whole.  It had some standout moments, but I wasn’t sold entirely on Jesse Marchant’s voice (might not be still).  However, the wonderful thing I discovered about JBM, as I’ve alluded to, is that he has the innate knack to draw you in emotionally with the song itself, then bring you in deeper with those extra touches that only come from truly gifted songwriters.  Each time I listen to a track, I immediately play it again to see if I heard what I thought I heard initially, and in the end, I find myself falling aimlessly into the song, and into the record itself.


Download:JBM – Winter Ghosts [MP3]

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